Lost River, Cannes film review: 'Dazzling enough to delight Ryan Gosling fans'

4.00

Prepare for accusations of pretentiousness in a film that will be loved or hated

"Hey Girl! He’s a director now..." was the internet meme doing the rounds in anticipation of Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River.

As an actor, Gosling has had a great love affair with Cannes, first receiving plaudits for Blue Valentine and then superstar status for his turn in Drive.

The career of The Notebook star was relaunched here as Gosling moved on from has-been teen property to everyone’s favourite actor.

Indeed it’s usually when he’s worked with Hollywood that Gosling has come a cropper.

The last actor of the stature of Gosling to have his own film debut at Cannes was Johnny Depp. That film disappeared after the premiere, a fate unlikely to befall Gosling’s debut, which although occasionally baffling in a narrative sense, is sufficiently dazzling. 

 

Lost River has been heavily influenced aesthetically by the work of Nicolas Winding Refn, Gosling’s favoured collaborator and director of Drive and Only God Forgives. It looks like something out of a style magazine with its heavy green and red tints.

But for all the brilliance of the work of its cinematographer Benoit Debie (who shot Irreversible), the fact that the action is set in Detroit, the American city once famous for its cars but now celebrated for its abandoned buildings, seems at odds with Gosling’s criticism of America and its willingness to abandon its past and its people. It occasionally feels as though he is glamorising their misery.

Recurring burning buildings, and even the occasional burning bicycle, establish Detroit as a place of purgatory and it’s on some lower level of Dante’s Inferno that Gosling has found his characters, the type usually found in the films of Dario Argento, Gaspar Noe and Nic Roeg.

Christina Hendricks plays Billy, a mother of two who is three months behind on rent and struggling to find two coins to rub together. She brings the same mix of innocence and smarts to this starring role as she does to Mad Men. Her oldest son Bones (Iain de Caestecker) gets the most screen time as he runs around town hunting in broken buildings and schools for scrap copper. 

Bones is being chased by a character who lives up to his name Bully. This is Doctor Who’s Matt Smith as you’ve never seen him before - shaved head, topless and telling all and sundry to "look at my muscles". He’s scary as the redneck who speaks in catchphrases rather than dialogue but he is not given enough screen time to explore other facets of his character.

A film still from Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River A film still from Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River

Saoirse Ronan appears as Bone’s best friend Rat, so called because she owns a pet rat. The most interesting character is Ben Mendelsohn’s bank manager Dave. He has been brought into town by the bank to try and foreclose on buildings. He’s also a closet lounge singer and tells Billy of a job in an underground fetish club. The audience members are faceless suits, but their fascination stems from their need to watch emotional car crashes.

Gosling is famous for playing characters who look good but stay silent. The same could be said for his film, in which the visual takes precedence over dialogue. There is not much plot, and the characters are driven by basic human needs, such as food and housing.

As with Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, this film will be either loved or hated. It was booed at the end of the screening at Cannes. Those not enthused by Gosling’s abstract look at the death of America will no doubt levy accusations of pretentiousness. For my money, there is enough substance and intellectual awareness here that the star’s fans will still be delighted.

Read more: Top films to watch out for at Cannes 2014
What is the glitzy Cannes Film Festival all about?
Cannes Film Festival official selection in full
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape