Analyzing Ryan Gosling’s Fever Dream… I Mean, ‘Lost River’ Trailer

Lost RiverWarner Bros. Pictures

Ryan Gosling is many things – an actor, a former Mickey Mouse Club member, extremely good looking – but with the release of his latest film, Lost River, he’s set to add writer and director to that list. The film, which was previously titled How to Catch a Monster, follows a single mother who navigates a dark underworld while her son stumbles across a path that leads to an underwater town. And if just reading that description made you feel confused and disoriented, just wait until you watch the first teaser for the film, courtesy of IndieWire. From the looks of it, Lost River is basically a full-length fever dream.

Though the film doesn’t premiere until later this week at Cannes, the teaser gives us a quick glimpse into the insanity that lurks just underneath Gosling’s handsome surface. Between the many fires, the chanting about muscles and the jeans with a built-in codpiece, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything packed into this clip. Luckily, we’re experienced pop culture analysts, and so we’ve attempted to unpack and break down all of the images present in the first clip from Lost River. Come, let us travel this journey into the unknown together:


0:07 – Every journey needs an entry point, and for us, it’s the young boy who emerges out of the darkness to confront the surreal world ahead of him. As he surveys the abandoned parking lot in front of him, he is forced into this new world, where he can no longer be protected by the comforting darkness and ignorance that the tunnel represents, and must instead face the horrors and confusions of the world head-on, carrying the literal baggage of his old life behind him. Meanwhile, the camera lingers on the graffiti on the walls behind him, representing the dangerous new language of his environment and showcasing how much detail the production designer took in replicating the cooler pictures he found in his Weird NJ books.

0:14 – Then, just as he’s becoming acclimated to his surroundings, our protagonist is thrown for a loop by the flaming bicycle that wheels past him, representing the death of his childhood and the rise of the harsh realities and questions of the new world. Either that, or Gosling is really opposed to the whole “go green” movement.

0:22 to 0:27 – From there, the camera cuts to Matt Smith, who apparently is trying to bring back ’90s warmp up gear in much the same way that the Doctor brought back fezzes and bowties. We then hear him demand for us to look at his muscles, over and over again, while Gosling attempts to make jazzercise cool again by taking it on safari.  

0:31 – Then, Smith stands on top of the car, and we see that his jeans come with a built-in codpiece, which serves to show that this a character designed to disorient the our protagonist. He represents being unafraid of your most primal desires and a reminder that just because something’s on sale, that doesn’t mean you should purchase it.

0:36 to 0:40 – Smith stands proudly in front of a bonfire, and his lack of concern over the synthetic material of his MC Hammer shirt catching fire represents his inherent danger and lack of inhibitions. We then cut to a house completely engulfed in flames, likely the result of Smith’s character letting his recklessness and anarchic tendencies take over. However, he is not present because the fire is burning too strongly for him to risk standing next to while wearing a scarf that is covered in cheap sequins without a shirt to protect him from the melting plastic.

0:58 to 1:04 – When we cut back to our protagonist, he abruptly runs into the distance, symbolizing his inability to face up to the harsh realities of this world and his desire to not be forever traumatized by the Doctor’s amateur rap career. As he runs over the bridge, his surroundings drag on and overwhelm him, because he will never be able to escape the images that he has just witnessed.

And if we’re being honest, neither will we.