Ryan Gosling’s Lost River with Matt Smith is “lousy”, “dreamy” and “challenging” say Cannes critics

Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, starring Matt Smith in his first major film role post-Doctor Who, has premiered to mixed reviews at Cannes Film Festival

Matt Smith. Ryan Gosling. There’s no way there wasn’t going to be a lot of hype when it came to Lost River. 


But until this week we knew very little about the film, which is Gosling’s directorial debut and Smith’s first film role post-Doctor Who. 

First we had pictures of Matt Smith wearing a sparkly top. Then we had a cryptic trailer where the former Time Lord flexed his muscles. And now we have the first reviews from the film, which premiered at prestigious film festival Cannes yesterday. 

Apparently there were boos and cheers when the credits rolled and that sentiment is echoed now the critics have put pen to paper. From “lousy” to “dreamy”, it’s a bit of a mixed bag…

The Hollywood Reporter called the film “a visual and aural sensory bath” adding that it “shows some real flair but feels madly derivative.” Reviewer Todd McCarthy also highlights the sense that Gosling is borrowing from other directors, saying: “The visuals are undeniably dreamy, but they mostly seem borrowed from other filmmakers’ dreams.”

The Telegraph gave it a single star, describing it as “mouth dryingly lousy”. The paper went on to say it is “cinema you don’t watch so much as absent-mindedly scroll through, wondering when an idea or an image worth clicking on will finally show up.”

Justin Chang, Variety‘s chief film critic, didn’t miss Gosling’s focus on other directors calling it a “misguided passion project” and adding: “Had Terrence Malick and David Lynch somehow conceived an artistic love-child together, only to see it kidnapped, strangled and repeatedly kicked in the face by Nicolas Winding Refn, the results might look and sound something like Lost River.”

Gosling’s “heavily-hyped directorial debut” is “an over-cooked affair that lacks much needed wit and humour to go alongside its self-aware art intentions,” says Screen Daily. Their review goes on to call the film “dense and challenging” before concluding that while “there are moments to cherish in Lost River – mainly visual metaphors and fine cinematography… the film ultimately fails to engage despite Ryan Gosling’s highbrow intentions.” 

The Guardian were no more complimentary of the “ruin-porn gothic fantasy”, giving it two stars and calling it “colossally indulgent, shapeless, often fantastically and unthinkingly offensive and at all times insufferably conceited.”

Peter Bradshaw does conclude on a less negative note, though, saying: “Its faults are huge: its virtues less so – but they are there. Gosling has energy and appetite. There is a delirious buzz to the drama. It is often ridiculous and fatuous but often ingenious. It could yet be that Gosling will mature as a director.” 

And Film.com reviewer Jordan Hoffman ends on a more positive note, too, saying: “Ryan Gosling wanted to make an art film and, despite some dull patches, pretty much succeeded.” 

Watch a trailer for Lost River: