I have watched Only God Forgives twice now. Like Drive (2011) - director Nicolas Winding Refn, actor Ryan Gosling, and musician Cliff Martinez’s last collaboration - I required two viewings to establish whether this latest film is all bells and whistles purporting to be art or whether it is the real thing.
On first watching Only God Forgives, I was immediately struck by the magnificent cinematic lighting – it is original and spellbinding. The story is strong and somewhat surreal, which appeals to me. The acting is once again subdued, as it was in Drive; in fact, much more so. What I did not enjoy was Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance, which I felt destroyed a lot of the ambience built up prior to her arrival on scene.
Having just finished my second viewing, I can tell you that any reservations I had are gone. Only God Forgives is an excellent crime thriller. Kristin Scott Thomas’ vocal interpretation of her character jars nicely against the other subdued performances. And it is good to see Gosling in a more vulnerable role again (watch Lars and the Real Girl (2007) for a formidable performance by Gosling). The soundtrack by Martinez is exemplary. And the symbolism and lack of explanations to the storyline give a lot of food for thought.
Critics and audiences are divisive over Only God Forgives. Why? Probably because it is something very different; it is surreal, highly symbolic, has a strongly foreign film feel to it, and contains several performances which rely on almost no dialogue and only the most subtle of facial expressions. This is a very different film to Drive or Gosling’s last feature, The Place Beyond the Pines (2012). Basically, this is not a film for everyone’s tastes. Still, I urge you to see it. It will only cost you 90 minutes of your life. This may be destined to become a cult classic.
As always, we recommend you don’t ruin any surprises by reading spoilers or watching trailers.
Title: Only God Forgives
Direction: Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cinematography: Larry Smith
Editing: Matthew Newman
Score: Cliff Martinez
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Vithaya Pansringarm, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yaya-Ying Rhatha Phongam, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Tom Burke, Gordon Brown, Byron Gibson