Film Review: Lost River


lostLost River is a failing Detroit area town named after its reservoir, which was created by flooding a nearby town where streetlights can still be seen hovering above the water’s surface. We meet many of Lost River’s inhabitants and the film focuses on mother and son Billie and Bones. Billie needs a job to support her sons and pay her mortgage while Bones steals copper from abandoned buildings to pay for car parts so he can leave town. Bones befriends Rat, the girl next door, and makes an enemy of Bully, a vicious sociopath who lays claim to all the scrap copper in their part of town. Meanwhile Billie is lured into working at a strange cabaret style nightclub by the loan officer at the bank, and both Billie and Bones are put in situations that will push them to their limits both emotionally and physically.

Taking some visual cues from Nicolas Winding Refn along with what appears to be a heavy dose of Harmony Korine, Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut is an interesting, but flawed film. The cinematography is stunning to say the least, while the score is haunting and alluring with what sounds to be some level of homage to the soundtrack from Phantasm. The main problem falls on the characters and I’m hesitant to say whether it was the writing or how the actors were directed, but all of the characters seemed distant and I found myself unable to fully engage with any of them even upon a second viewing. I can’t completely label this as a flaw, though, due to the highly stylized nature of the film. This strange distancing of the characters could have been intentional.

Overall, I believe that Lost River is a film worth seeing and will be of special interest to fans of Harmony Korine, Nicolas Winding Refn and those who appreciate form over function in their storytelling. Also extra praise has to be given to Gosling for casting horror icon Barbara Steele as Rat’s grandmother. Her role may have been a small one, but her presence was notable.

Lost River is available for digital download. For more information,

Lost River (2014), Dir: Ryan Gosling, Starring: Christina Hendricks, Ian De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan

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