Hollywood Starlet Ryan Gosling goes behind the camera to bring us this self-penned coming-of-age-fantasy-neo noir.
Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) plays Billy; a destitute single mum who takes a job at a weird, misogynist night club run by seedy bank-manager Dave (Mendelsohn).
Meanwhile Billy’s teenage son Bones (Iain De Caestecker; Agents of Shield, The Fades) collects scrap metal to fund the repair of his car. This earns the ire of a local bully, imaginatively named Bully, played by Matt Smith (Doctor Who) who believes he rules Lost River, the desolate, near abandoned town where they live.
Using the on-location ruin-porn of Detroit as a backdrop Lost River presents a striking visual attraction but Gosling over-indulges on this particular feast leaving you wondering if he wants to tell you a story or simply show you his holiday slides. It feels like an old European city symphony only interspersed with lines of dialogue no one would actually say.
This, along with an ocean of montages and musical numbers mean that things like plot and character and character motivation are drowned in a shapeless, conceited, pretentious mess that gives off the faint whiff (in fact it’s the overpowering, sickening stench) of an idea dragged out to meet even a 90-minute run-time.
It’s annoying because in a few places Gosling shows promise as a director. He’s obviously not content to churn run-of-the-mill Hollywood fare, he does have a keen eye for a visual even if he overindulges like a starving man at a free buffet and Lost River contains a few attention-grabbing moments and some neat ideas.
He’s aided by strong casting too. Indy-film darling Ben Mendelsohn excels as always and Matt Smith is a slightly underused standout; playing something so completely unlike his Dr. Who persona its almost worth enduring everything else to see it.
The Verdict: A (seemingly) endless, dull, masturbatory, directionless film propped up only on the strength of the cast and the frustrating feeling that Gosling actually has a lot of potential as a director. Lost River is the sort of thing you imagine today’s elite directors made in film school or as adolescent personal projects rather than on a studio budget. At times it feels like Gosling is ripping off David Lynch or Nicholas Winding Refn while missing the point; but tantalisingly there is the nugget of something in there.