Fair play to Ryan Gosling for beginning (and possibly ending if some critics are to be believed) his directing career with Lost River. His debut behind the camera could have taken the Mel Gibson route and had him playing a Scottish hero riding into battle for freedom or it could have favoured the Joseph Gordon Levitt approach and featured him snogging Scarlet Johansson every few minutes.
However, Gosling has chosen to do neither of these things and does not star in his own film, instead remaining firmly behind the camera on Lost River. His influences however, are all up on the screen for cinephiles to see, and it’s an eclectic mix that ranges from Malick to Lynch to Refn and is bound to alienate a lot of fans of even his most out-there acting work.
Lost River follows a family on the outskirts of recession-hit Detroit who are struggling to make ends meet as the poverty-stricken population desert the place. A single mother (Christina Hendricks) and her two sons have fallen behind on the mortgage payments so she takes a job offered to her by her creepy bank manager (Ben Mendelsohn). The new job is in a terrifyingly Lynchian nightclub where faked stabbings and all manner of weirdness is on the menu for those who seek an escape from the crushing poverty outside.
Meanwhile, the woman’s oldest son (Iain De Caestecker) begins a relationship with a girl (Saoirse Ronan) who has a pet rat and a mute grandmother. Their budding romance is threatened by Matt Smith’s thug Bully who roams the empty streets like a savage beast, looking to hurt anyone in his path.
It is a very brave debut from a star who could coast by on his looks but has chosen a far darker path in both his acting and now his directing. It looks stunning, makes little narrative sense, but is so arresting in its imagery, ideas and atmosphere, that the desire for a story slowly disappears. Lost River could be the pretentious brain fart of a spoiled A-lister with too much money to play with but the beauty, mystery and all round oddness of it make it one that is likely to be studied in years to come. Gosling may have nicked a lot from his idols, but he's done it with style.
Here is the trailer: