Director: Ryan Gosling
Writer: Ryan Gosling
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Matt Smith, Ben Mendelsohn, Saoirse Ronan
A single mother is swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town. Mother is facing the foreclosure of her childhood home where she currently lives with her two sons, one of them a teenager while the other being a toddler. The newly appointed bank manager gives her a new job, which is essentially a degrading one, in a club where people come to find solace while watching gore tricks. The manager claims that this is his sixth lost river town and he knows how to get things done for the bank. Meanwhile, as more and more people leave the town after getting their houses foreclosed, her elder son Bones goes house to house to collect whatever scrap copper he could get to earn some money. It is a dangerous business as those properties are owned by the local gangster, Bully, and this can be seen as an unholy alliance between the bankers and the shady underworld. Bones also learn from his neighbor friend that their town borders several towns that got submerged when a dam was built in the area.
I think it is safe to make a guess that the aftermath of sub-prime crisis in America is the theme that Ryan Gosling is going for. There is nothing being done for the borrowers, which is justified in the name of moral hazard, as their houses are getting foreclosed. Meanwhile the bankers, who peddled loans to unqualified borrowers with no means to repay them, are bailed out and nobody is concerned about the moral hazard in doing that. It is a blatant case of following capitalism when it comes to private sector profits and socialism in distributing the private sector losses. The scenes showing foreclosures are not far removed from what happened in several American towns after the crisis. The metaphor of dams submerging towns can be seen as about grand things being planned ultimately benefiting none leaving trails of destruction in its wake.
All these things described above are established within first forty or so minutes of the film. The problem is that what comes after doesn't amount to much. It is atmospheric invoking the likes of David Lynch and neon-lit Refn films. Chromatics, who were also involved with the Drive soundtrack, contributes to the music along with Glass Candy, Desire and Symmetry. Couple of songs are also from Saoirse Ronan and Ben Mendelsohn. Film was screened at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section, inviting boos as well as cheers from the audience. So I was thinking that it will be one that would be in 'Either Hate it or Love it' category but I enjoyed watching it without considering it to be all that great. The last thirty minutes of the film is immensely atmospheric but what exactly happens on screen in terms of plot is kind of tame. Overall it is a good watch and an interesting directorial debut for Ryan Gosling.