Lost River is a disturbing, but beautifully crafted film by Ryan Gosling. It is about a fictional decaying city named Lost River. It was filmed on location in Detroit. Somehow, knowing that makes the the movie more poignant. The empty factories, abandoned houses and deserted office buildings were not sets created for the movie, but are scenes of modern-day Detroit.
However, unlike Detroit, Lost River is not decaying due to the collapse of the auto industry. The town of Lost River is suffering from a curse. Decades ago, a dam was built, which created a lake that flooded large sections of the city. Entire streets and even a dinosaur amusement park are under the lake. Local myth has it that the curse will be lifted if anyone is brave enough to dive in the lake and recover a piece of the submerged city.
Anyone with any intelligence or skills has long ago left Lost River. The people who remain are the poor trying to scratch out whatever living they can; and various evil people who prey on the poor.
Saoirse Ronan plays “Rat”, a young woman who has stayed in the city only to take care of her grandmother who refuses to leave. Her best friend and next door neighbor is “Bones” (played by Iain De Caestecker). “Bones” is trying to survive by ripping copper pipes out of abandoned buildings and selling them for scrap.
His scavenging brings him into direct conflict with “Bully”, the film’s villain, who has declared that all the copper in abandoned buildings belongs to him. Bully is excellently played by Matt Smith. Bully is not huge or muscular, but the fact that he is completely insane makes him truly frighting.
At least Bully is honest about being a predator on the weak. However, there is a second class of predators. These are the few remaining wealthy people who have an underground club for “performance art” that is actually a place where attractive, poor young women degrade themselves for the amusement of the onlookers.
“Billy” (played by Christina Hendricks ) who is the mother or Bones is forced to perform at this club, in order to earn enough money to keep their house from being repossessed by the bank. She is lead into this situation by a banker who pretends he is actually helping her by giving her the job.
The banker, Dave Played by Ben Mendelson, is undoubtedly one of the strangest people you will see in any movie. He sets up these sadistic fantastic clubs in every city he visits in his banking career. We can only hope that this is not what actual executives do when they leave the bank at night.
Most reviewers did not like this movie, and we have some mixed feelings about it. In the U.S. there are some decaying towns and parts of certain cities where the only people left are the very poor and the people who take advantage of them. We think the movie would have been better if had focused on real people like that in real situations.
Instead, the film “went off the deep end” trying to be overly artistic by creating strange characters and bizarre situations. Most of the characters were so unreal that the writers did not even bother to give them real names. After all, the main characters are named “Rat”, and “Bones”, while the bad guy, of course, is named “Bully.”
However, we will give Ryan Gosling credit for making an exciting film. As strange as these characters are, you need to know what is going to happen to them. Is there a way out for these people, or are they simply doomed?
We do recommend this film. It is exciting to watch, although we will warn you that some of the scenes are disturbing. It is certainly a movie you will never forget.
We give this film Four Stars ****