From the reactions that I overheard after the movie – first directly in the cinema as then later in the hallway, where we all gathered to wait for the next screening – as well as in the days afterwards, I’d argue that “Lost River” was the most divisive movie at this years “/slash ½”-festival. And while there were those who really liked or even loved it, it seemed to me that those who hated it were in the vast majority – or at least, they were more vocal about it. “Pretentious garbage”, “The critics got it right for once” (FYI, they largely slammed it, as proven by a rather damning Rotten Tomatoes-rating of 29%) and “What a piece of shit” were the predominant statements that I heard afterwards. So please take it with a
grain teaspoon of salt when I tell you that I was absolutely mesmerized by it.
Your opinion of Nicholas Winding Refn’s movies might give you a clue on what side of the “Lost River”-reaction-spectrum you’re going to end up, since it’s obvious that Ryan Gosling was heavily influenced by the Danish director, with whom he had worked together twice shortly before tackling his directorial debut. Mind you, I said “might” – since I’m actually not a good proof of this theory myself, given that I’m rather divided on his movies, at least the ones that I’ve seen so far. I was mostly bored by “Valhalla Rising”, but “Drive” blew me away (in my opinion, it was the best movie that came out in 2012 in Austria), and “Only God Forgives” ended up as one of my biggest disappointments of 2013. I guess with those very atmospheric, dreamlike, meditative movies, it ultimately comes down to this: Do they manage to draw you in? If yes, you’ll end up hypnotized by what’s on-screen. If not, you’ll be bored to tears. And I think that ultimately, there’s no way to know for sure until you sit down in the cinema and/or pop in the Blu-Ray/DVD, and give it a try.
As for myself, I’m glad to say that this was more like “Drive” than “Valhalla Rising” and “Only God Forgives” for me. I really loved the atmosphere of the movie, the surreal dream-(or rather nightmare-)like feel to it. At least with me – unlike many others – it managed to do exactly what I said above: To draw me in, to grip me, and to never let me go until the credits rolled. I loved the (flawed) characters, the visuals, the atmosphere, the visuals, the music, the visuals, the acting, the visuals, the weirdness, the visuals, the songs, the visuals, the story, the visuals, the atmosphere… oh, and did I mention the visuals? Seriously, though, “Lost River” offers up one of the most stunning, beautiful and haunting images that I’ve seen on the movie screen in a very long time. Absolutely terrific. Add to that the perfect (“Drive”-y) soundtrack by Johnny Jewel as well as the surreal-nightmarish atmosphere and the apocalyptic story, and you got a movie that absolutely stunned and fascinated me. If it weren’t for Matt Smith’s Bully, who didn’t completely work for me, I might even see this on a similar level as “Drive”. Your mileage may very well – and very drastically – vary, of course, but I absolutely loved it, and I’m already looking forward to visiting this lost river of despair again in the very near future.
If you’re interested in an extremely contrasting opinion, I recommend my buddy Maynard’s review, where he calls it the most unbearable movie that he has ever seen – and trust me, with the garbage that he’s watching on a constant basis, that’s saying something! 😉