Ryan Gosling is one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world, but his next venture has him stepping behind the camera. His directorial debut, Lost River—formerly titled How to Catch a Monster—is set to debut soon at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and while we’ll have to wait until later this week for the reviews to start rolling in, the film has released it’s first clip. The footage features stars Matt Smith, in his first big post-Doctor Who role, and Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the criminally underseen The Fades), and it is unusual to say the least.
Gosling’s dreamy, surreal style has been described as a synthesis between Drive director Nicholas Winding Refn and Blue Valentine helmer Derek Cianfrance. These influences make sense because he has worked with both recently, and they’re not bad dudes to learn from. A statement the fledgling director released also confirms these influences. He says, “I wanted to make this film because it’s a movie that I would want to see. Like many children who grew up in the 1980s, I first approached the cinema through mainstream films. I was excited to shoot this kind of story, but with the language of filmmaker that I’ve acquired through the years.”
Lost River tells the story of Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother who gets sucked into “a macabre and dark fantasy underworld while her teenage son discovers a secret road leading to an underwater town.”
That sounds like a suitably esoteric description, painting a picture of what seems to be a twisted kind of fairy tale or fable. When you take a look at this footage, the visual side of things only reinforces that strangeness. From that flaming bicycle that rides itself past Bones (De Caestecker), to Smith’s character Bully with a microphone, imploring the world to take a look at his muscles, there are definitely some bizarre forces at work in the world of Lost River. There’s something sinister going on, and though you have no idea what it is at this point, it’s certainly enough to get Bones to drop whatever is in his bag and take off running.
While I like the inherent weirdness in this clip and what we know of the story, I’m of two minds on Lost River. It could very well prove to be an interesting film from someone who legitimately has a vision and something to say. But it’s easy to imagine this devolving into pretentious, pseudo-artistic drivel that is so convinced of its own importance it can’t see that there is no actual substance or merit. (Shia LeBeouf recent shenanigans come to mind.) As an actor, Gosling is prone to making interesting choices, but let us not forget he also made The Notebook. If nothing else, at least he’s trying to do something different, and you have to appreciate that ambition.
Lost River also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes, and Saoirse Ronan.