Much has been made of Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, which opened to harsh reception at Cannes last year. Critics seem determined to undermine the intent behind the picture rather than its contents: attacks have been leveled at its supposedly self-indulgent nature on the one hand and its debt to stronger directors on the other. When criticism is leveled at its subject matter, it attacks the film's supposed pretentiousness or flamboyance—attacks which again seem poke under the surface at Gosling rather than the film itself.
As for myself, I detected some heart beneath the thick outer shell of its visual style, and that heart lay in the ideas of home and family. It is a film which seems to be working through the traumatic experience of the bursting of the housing bubble which lead to a generation-defining recession. But even more than this, it is a film about finding your place in the world, and how the supposedly stable signifiers we think about as a home (the building we live in, the physical evidence of our lives) doesn't matter nearly as much as the people we share it with.
Lost River shows us that home is not a physical location in past, present, or future reality; rather, home is a state of being shared among people living together. Home is not the property owned by corrupt businessmen or ruled by political bullies, but the people we love. Our home is a lost river, and rather than clinging to the crumbling banks, we're better off drifting downstream and loving the family we're floating along with.
2014: New Releases