Lost River is a dark and suspenseful semi-futuristic fable from début writer-director Ryan Gosling. It's set in a run-down American town that seems to have been left behind by a worsening economy. Mad Men's Christina Hendricks plays a single mother of two, desperately trying to save her family home from being repossessed and demolished by the bank. She takes on a mysterious job offered to her by Ben Mendelsohn's villainous bank manager as a means to earn extra cash to repay her arrears. The job turns out to be a performer at a torture-themed nightclub. Her son, played by Marvel's Agents of Shield's Iain De Caestecker, tries his best to contribute by scavenging copper from derelict properties scattered amongst the deserted areas of the vicinity. However, this angers the local thug, played by a shaven-headed Matt Smith of Doctor Who fame, who has laid claim to all of the copper as his own.
It's a simple story with unfortunate encounters stimulating cat-and-mouse conflicts between its characters. Its setting is grim and mainly devastated yet the film is consistently visually-arresting. I'm a big fan of Nicholas Winding-Refn's films, with whom Ryan Gosling collaborated by starring in Drive and Only God Forgives. It seems that Gosling shares a similar style when it comes to the tone on display here. Elements of horror are then introduced with a slight adjustment in tone and visuals suggesting an influence akin to David Lynch. The film brings compelling mystery with little signs of hope emerging from a disturbing story. The performances are solid and it's an ambitious piece that has the potential to become a cult favourite in the future.
It's not perfect but at 95 minutes it's the right length for this nightmarish modern-day fairy-tale about family and survival. I imagine that the original cut, before the film was picked up by a distributor, was much longer and has been subject to compromise. I remember seeing a clip months ago that hasn't ended up in the version released. It's a promisingly brave directorial début from Ryan Gosling, a piece of Arthouse cinema that won't be to everyone's tastes for the same reasons I gave when I reviewed Only God Forgives a couple of years ago, but Lost River was right up my street.
Lost River is in cinemas and available On-Demand now.