For quite awhile I was eagerly awaiting a day when I would drag all my friends to the movies to see the movie Lost River which was directed by Hollywood hunk Ryan Gosling and features the acting talent of none other than the Doctor himself, Matt Smith. The Cannes film festival unfortunately changed all that. The film was mercilessly attacked by critics. So much hate was directed at it that theaters all across America decided not to release it. Today I finally got the opportunity to watch on pay per view.
Lost River is not a simple movie. Perhaps this is why so many simple minded critics did not find it to their liking. This movie is about the struggle to survive and to develop a new identity. It's about the predator and the prey and trying to find out which one you are. It's about control and weakness and how hard it can be living in a world that would like very much to see you tear yourself apart for its viewing pleasure.
Now that I've touched on some of the themes I should probably address the actual plot of the movie. According to IMDb in Lost River "a single mother is swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town." This led me to believe for quite some time that I was going to be watching something with strong elements of a traditional fantasy film. To clarify this film is about a woman (Christina Hendricks) and her two sons who are struggling to keep their house. The woman is offered a job working at a nightclub for fetishists. She accepts the offer and begins doing performances where she appears to mutilate herself onstage. Her oldest son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) breaks into abandoned homes to take copper wiring. This lands him in trouble with Bully (played by Matt Smith) who has claimed the city as his own and protects his claim with extreme violence. The city itself is called Lost River because of the nearby river which was created by literally sinking a town.
I'll admit that as a huge Matt Smith fan I'm already predisposed to having a positive view of anything he's in but I assure you that even though Smith's character is vital to the plot the movie has a lot more to offer than just him. The cinematography is beautiful. Every shot feels like a work of art. The character Rat (Saoirse Ronan) remarks at one point that the whole town feels like its underwater. As a viewer I can attest that is true. Theirs a heavy, dark and sort of breathless atmosphere.
The character of Bully is a very relatable young man. He wants to help his mother by providing for his family. At the same time he feels resentful of her for not being able to hold everything together. He's desperate to find some way to fix things and prove that he's a man. His friend and love interest Rat is a bit of a wiser counterpart to him. She knows about the town's past from her grandmother and she can think on her feet. Rat's called rat because of her pet rat Nick, Without giving too much away let me just say that there is a very darkly sexual scene between Matt Smith's character and Nick.
The mother in this movie is a complicated character as well. She wants to what's right for her children and she's willing to sacrifice a lot to make that happen. At the same time she wants to preserve the past. She fights to fights to keep her family in a dilapidated home surrounded by what can only be called ruins. Even as the world around her crumbles apart she refuses to admit that there's really nothing she can do. This is where Dave the banker (Ben Mendelsohn) comes in. Dave offers her work at a nightclub for fetishists which he started. He tells her its' good money so she takes the offer. Let me just say that this does not turn out great. There's a dancing scene later in the film which is very reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs.
Bully (Matt Smith) is one fucked up motherfucker. He's equal parts Alex from A Clockwork Orange, Tyler Durden from Fight Club and every schoolyard bully from an eighties movie. Whether he's shouting about his muscles or breaking someone's neck he's fun to watch every second. Bully is a villain's villain. He serves as a metaphor for corruption and cruelty which can come when even small amounts of power are left unchecked. Bully is a king. His thrown is a cheap blue chair mounted to his car.
Speaking of the similarities between Matt Smith's character and Alex from A Clockwork Orange, the two films have something else in common. They both have really haunting and beautiful soundtracks. Lost River is filled with ominous and powerful instrumentals and Rat (Saoirse Ronan) has a fantastic singing voice. The music only adds to the overall enjoyableness of the film.
I would like to summarize by saying Lost River is a complex and enjoyable film which is often dark and creepy. It has a lot to say about society and what people will do to get by. It's an awesome movie and the critics can suck Matt Smith's dick. I hope to see Ryan Gosling continue directing in the future.
For anyone who may be interested, here are Matt Smith's muscles.