Review #48 Only God Forgives
By Katy Daniels
Only God Forgives directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn tells the story of a young man named Julian (played by Ryan Gosling) who escaped to Bangkok after committing a murder ten years prior. Julian now running a boxing club as a front for a drugs operation lives a lifestyle full of sex, drugs and violence. It is not until Julian’s older brother Billy, (played by Tom Burke) kills a sixteen year old prostitute and is then subsequently murdered himself by the victim’s father (egged on by a retired vengeful cop)that the story really begins to unfold. The boy’s mother, Crystal (played by Kristen Scott Thomas) travels to Bangkok to collect the body of her first born and seek vengeance on her son’s murderer(s).
Refn’s ultimate success comes from the movie Drive (which also featured Ryan Gosling). Although exceedingly violent, Drive was found to have a stronger storyline, a love interest and a softer side, than Only God Forgives.
To say the film is not for the faint hearted would be an understatement, like most if not all of Refn’s movies expect a dark ambience throughout, a lot of cursing and blinding, blood and guts, an awkward sexual moment here and there and a few silent evocative scenes. The movie has proved controversial with many critics either raving or ranting about the masterpiece, however a common view throughout is that the performances of both Gosling and Scott-Thomas are undeniably exhilarating.
Gosling plays empty and troubled Julian exceptionally well, with convincing bouts of anger and silent emotive scenes, the actor has definitely shown he can take on any type of character. While his performance is not too far from that in Drive, Gosling has proven he can play funny, smart, sexy and downright disturbing. It is with no surprise that the Canadian born actor has moved onto more challenging behind the scene projects. Kristen Scott Thomas is also unbelievably faultless in the role of Crystal, Julian and Billy’s emotionally psychotic mother. Her presence on screen is incandescent and the relationship between Scott Thomas and on-screen son Ryan Gosling is all too real. Agreeing with many of the critics out there the movie is far too violent so much so that the storyline becomes somewhat irrelevant. Without the outstanding performances by the lead roles, the movie doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.
As critics and audiences opinion have shown this movie delivers a marmite effect, we either love it or hate it. And lucky for the cast, director and producers of the movie the only way to find out which side of the spectrum you lie is to see the movie yourself.