Lost River, film review: Ryan Gosling's directorial debut is a wildly self-indulgent affair

(15) Ryan Gosling, 93 mins Starring: Iain De Caestecker, Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn
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The Independent Culture

Roundly trashed when it premiered in Cannes last year, Ryan Gosling's directorial debut is a misfiring, wildly self-indulgent affair, but with flickerings of brilliance along the way. Individual sequences play like short films in their own right.

The setting is a decaying town (presumed to be Detroit) where all the houses are up for foreclosure. In one David Lynch-style section of the story, Christina Hendricks is a single mother behind on her rent payments who takes a job at a seedy nightclub run by banker/entrepreneur Dave (Ben Mendelsohn).


In another, which plays more like a Selfish Giant-style slice of British social realism, her son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) rummages around for discarded copper that he can sell to scrap merchants. In doing so, he risks provoking the wrath of the local psychopath (a convincingly intimidating Matt Smith, a long way from Doctor Who).

The positive points here include a wonderfully atmospheric score from Johnny Jewel, the rich, dark cinematography from Benoît Debie and some very vivid performances. We get to see the cult British horror actress Barbara Steele in a cameo as a mute Miss Havisham type, and Saoirse Ronan registers strongly as her tough but vulnerable granddaughter. The downside is that Gosling pays so much attention to mood and style that he fails to provide anything resembling a coherent storyline.