Movie Review - Lost River

What's interesting about this film from actor-turned-writer-director Ryan Gosling is that he's created what looks and feels like a post-apocalyptic fantasy with very little effort. His gaze upon the ruins of Detroit is beautiful and horrifying in ways that could parrot George Romero or George Miller. In essence, a documentary about the same things Gosling captures could be seen as a post-apocalypse. What makes Gosling's film more in-line with the Miller-like fantasy are his ideas about the scavengers and the perverted form of entertainment that have arisen in the urban wasteland.

Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) stars as Bones, a young man, probably a teenager, who lives with his single mom and his little brother in a highly impoverished neighborhood in Detroit. Both he and his mom have trouble finding a job. To make what little cash he can, Bones carries a duffel bag of tools that he uses to strip copper from abandoned and run-down houses. He's a small and scrawny guy but he's very scrappy and smart.

Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) who played in Drive with Gosling also stars as Billy, the single mom of Bones. She's struggling to pay the mortgage. She's a beautiful woman who can't seem to find work to do so. She goes to the bank manager to make some kind of deal, so she and her sons can keep the house. The bank manager suggests giving her a job at his other business, an underground club that does bizarre shows.

Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) who co-starred in The Place Beyond the Pines with Gosling co-stars here as Dave, the aforementioned, bank manager. He feels like a pimp wooing Billy into his whore house, but instead of sex, his underground club is about putting on vaudeville shows. It's not even about women stripping nude. It's about women performing acts of violence, simulated violence, but violence nonetheless.

Matt Smith (Doctor Who) plays Bully, the character who most reminds of this piece being a nod to post-apocalyptic fantasies. Obviously, the character can exist today, but, in many ways could be a character from Mad Max or The Walking Dead. He just seems like a psychotic menace that looms over the ruins. He sets his sights particularly on Bones.

Saoirse Ronan (Atonement and The Grand Budapest Hotel) plays Rat, the girl who lives next door to Bones and his family. She lives with her grandmother and only her grandmother. Because of or perhaps in spite of her name, she has a pet rodent named Nick whom she cherishes. She questions Bones as to why he doesn't leave.

It seems as if a lot of people have left. If anything, this movie is about the people who choose to stay, how they choose to survive, and what they choose to do. Ultimately, it's about what Bones and Billy choose to do, and how they choose to stand up to oppressive forces. Both their arcs end in similar fashion with some obvious things wrapped up and less obvious things left in the air.

There's great visuals that Gosling captures. One especially is the final shot. It's an image of a line of tall lampposts, flooded nearly up to the light-heads. In a metaphorical way, it says so much about what has happened to the city.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for disturbing violent images, language and some sexual content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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