Ryan Gosling makes an intriguing directorial debut with “Lost River”

"The Ides of March" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals
I’m a huge fan of Ryan Gosling as an actor, frankly considering him to be among the very best of this generation. As such, I was very interesting in his first foray behind the camera, which happens to be the dark fairy tale of sorts Lost River. He’s worked with some top notch directors in the past, so some interesting things had to have rubbed off on him. Well, he wears a number of influences on his sleeve in Lost River, oddly enough including David Lynch in a huge way. His debut film is a divisive one, but it’s a debut that I think suggests a bright future as a filmmaker.

Gosling has a who’s who list of directors that he’s worked with in his career so far, including Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson), Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines), George Clooney (The Ides of March), Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love), Marc Forster (Stay), Andrew Jarecki (All Good Things), as well as Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive and Only God Forgives), and that doesn’t include his upcoming projects with Shane Black, Terrence Malick, and Adam McKay either. Those various filmmaking styles have clearly rubbed off on him, besides combining with his own distinct visual aesthetic and sensibilities. I’m sure his directorial choices in filming his own script might have been different if not for the work with those directors over the past decade or so.

If you’ve never heard of Lost River, here’s a primer. Gosling wrote and directed the tale of a family trying to stay in their home while the entire town around them basically crumbles. It’s dark, surreal, and often disturbing, but with an underlying emotion that sets it apart. The cast includes Christina Hendricks, Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes, Saoirse Ronan, and Matt Smith, as well as newcomer Iain De Caestecker. Noted cinematographer Benoît Debie shot the flick and Johnny Jewel composed the score. When Gosling turned in the script to Warner Brothers, they bought it and let him go off and make what he wanted. Then, reviews at the Cannes Film Festival last year weren’t what they expected, so it’s getting a token release on Friday before quietly going to home video in May. I understand that decision, but I don’t agree with it. Lost River is messy, but it’s far from a bad film.

The thing I like best about Gosling’s debut is how it suggests such a bright future for him as a filmmaker. He’s a work in progress still, that’s without question, but his talents are there. He might be best served directing someone else’s script next time, but his writing will certainly develop as well. His sensibilities might not point him towards awards season fare, but you never can tell about that. At one point, when this was still called How to Catch a Monster, some pundits (myself included) had this pegged as a possible Oscar contender. You never can tell what a final product will look like.

When Lost River opens this weekend in limited release, it’ll show off a whole new side of Gosling. He’s already tried his hand (successfully too, I might add) at music, so writing and directing perhaps was the natural progression for the actor. I can’t promise that you’ll like his movie, but I think you’ll all find it interesting, if nothing else. It’s very indie and probably very personal to him, so if you’re a fan of his, this has to be a curiosity, at the very least. Give Lost River a shot…it might surprise you.

Stay tuned to see what Gosling does next behind the camera!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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