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Lost River (2 stars)

Style is no substitute for coherence in Ryan Gosling's directorial debut

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Lost River

Clint Eastwood, Richard Attenborough and Ida Lupino are just some of the names one could cite as proof that actors often make the best directors. On the evidence of his lurid gothic fairytale Lost River, Ryan Gosling is not about to join that list any time soon.

Gosling's glumly disappointing directorial debut, which he also wrote, appears to have borrowed heavily from the more compelling imaginations of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn. There is a bizarre circus of horrors burlesque club full of oppressive Lynchian menace, a grandstanding stab at demented, sparkly-suited villainy from Matt Smith as Bully, and some vivid images of a city virtually under water. You assume it is all meant to be a nightmarish vision of urban decay and the everyday horrors of an America where the rich get richer and the poor get forgotten. That's a straightforward explanation of an often risibly pretentious film that seems relentlessly drawn to the incomprehensible.

Gosling's film is set in an abandoned urban hell (it was shot in Detroit) where waitress Billy (Christina Hendricks) tries to keep a roof over the family and provide for her sons Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and Franky (Landyn Stewart). Three mortgage payments have not been made and options are running out as the family face all kinds of monsters and demons, from the ones that lurk in their minds to very real threats from the lecherous Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) and Bully, who cuts off the lips of his victims.

It has a cult cast that also includes Eva Mendes as Miss Kitty Cat and horror icon Barbara Steele as Grandma, and cinematographer Benoît Debie (Spring Breakers, Irreversible) constantly commands your attention with his striking visuals. Despite the talents involved, Lost River never gives us a clear idea as to what exactly Gosling might be trying to say about all this post-apocalyptic fear, loathing and ennui.

Selected release from Fri 10 Apr.

Lost River

  • 2 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 115 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Ryan Gosling
  • Cast: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Rob Zabrecky
  • UK release: 10 April 2015

In an abandoned urban hell, waitress Billy (Hendricks) tries to provide for her sons Bones (De Caestecker) and Franky (Stewart) while they're menaced by villains Dave (Mendelsohn) and Bully (Smith). This lurid gothic fairytale is the glum, sub-Lynchian directorial debut from Gosling; risibly pretentious and frequently…

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