Only God Forgives *spoiler alert*
Ok so I saw Refn’s latest movie on sunday and I don’t usually write reviews but this one movie made me think a lot so here we go.
Ok, I went seeing this one at the cinema on sunday with a friend and I didn’t know anything about the story or plot or cast apart from the fact that Refn directed it and Gosling starred in it.
As the film starts a boxing gym is pictured and we were really hoping this wasn’t another movie about boxe. Fortunately, it wasn’t.
After a few scenes this becomes clear as all of Refn’s trademark features start showing: long, slow and silent takes, extreme and gratuitous violence and the perfect combination between sound and image.
From the stylish point of view the movie is impeccable, but then again, during the whole play I wondered what would happen next and why. Refn is unpredictable.
The whole movie is based on a mother that seeks revenge for his dead son, murdered by a man after he raped and killed his 16 year old daughter.
The mother, Christin, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, wants his other son Julian, played by Ryan Gosling, to revenge his brother because, as she says, “If the tables were turned your brother would have found your killer and brought me his head on a fucking platter!”
Julian is silent, he seems to take all critics with dignity and resignation, trying to be the “strong guy” despise the opinion his mother has of him, but in reality he is weak and tries to hide this side of him by acting like the though guy, the reflective, strong, “good” guy. We have a highly distorted image of his character after he refuses to kill his brother’s murder because he thinks it’s not right to do so. After the scene where he tells Crystal he didn’t kill him because his brother had raped his daughter the audience was 100% convinced he is the good guy…just like in Drive. And I think Refn played his cards well trying to make us identify Julian with Drive’s “real hero” only to find out he is not at the end of the movie.
Later on we discover how Julian has plenty of weaknesses, most caused by the oppression his mother operates on him. He basically is a puppet in her hands, obeying to everything she commands him because “she is his mother”.
He’s frustrated and probably impotent and the only way he has to let all his frustration out is through violence, even though he is a terrible fighter as we see during the fighting scene with Chang, the police man he is after because involved and partly responsible of his brother’s murder.
Again, Chang is a key figure of the whole movie: we are pushed to think he is the bad guy, while in fact he is the good one. During the whole movie there is not one thing he does that can be judged as wrong or immoral. He is an executioner and as all executioners he is violent and drastic, but is he ever wrong in all his actions? Refn voluntarily refuses to show us his emotions to make us think of him as the “bad”, cold, insensitive villain, but as the movie ends one thing comes clear: we got it wrong from the start.
Chang is the hero. Julian is not the villain, but he’s too weak to be anything but a puppet. He isn’t capable of no action even though we think a stronger part of him is gonna show anytime before the film ends. It doesn’t. That’s what makes the ending so unpredictable.
I’m not gonna talk about the Cannes jury reaction about this movie or the bad reviews or anything. I just think that when a movie makes you think this much it can’t be bad.
There’s a lot more to say about Only God Forgives, I could write an entire book about how beautiful some scenes were, like the one were Gosling confronts Chang, or how perfect the soundtrack by Cliff Martinez sounds, or the symbolic shots of Gosling’s hands and fists, the whole womb fetish and the hallucinations. It’s not an easy movie. It needs you to think outside the box to get this one. It’s a clever, brilliant piece of cinema.
PS. It took me a lot of effort to write this one in english but I wanted to share this with you so fuck it if there are mistakes, I am no movie critic and I just really wanted to express my feelings about this.