This review was originally published as part of our Cannes coverage on 18/05/2018.
“Ever get the feeling you fucked up somewhere a long time ago and you’re living a bad version of the life you were supposed to have?”
Under the Silver Lake, from It Follows director David Robert Mitchell, is all about those fraught moments and lost years where you keep on running but never go anywhere. His lead is Sam (Andrew Garfield), a twenty-something loner who lost direction a long time ago and never quite got round to picking it back up.
With no job to speak of, the most productive part of his life is chasing crackpot conspiracy theories around L.A. in a plot reminiscent of Southland Tales, The Nice Guys and Inherent Vice. The cast of disturbing oddballs populate an alternate underground version of the city where everything is connected and nothing makes sense.
It would defeat the purpose to reveal if Mitchell’s script offers any clear-cut answers, but it’s spoiling nothing to say that its biggest preoccupation is the search for meaning itself. Sam has failed to do much with his own life so now he tries to impose answers on an indifferent world.
Garfield is terrific in a tough role, having a lot of fun with the physical side of his misfit character, and he’s supported well by Jeremy Bobb, Riley Keogh and Grace Van Patten. The latter are victims of Mitchell’s exaggerated male gaze, which tries to suggest a dream-like male fantasy vision of the world, but doesn’t quite manage to justify its own voyeurism.
Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis and composer Rich Vreeland both threaten to steal the film with some incredible, distinctive contributions, but it’s Mitchell’s ambitious vision that you’ll remember. Under the Silver Lake takes two steps forward, one step back, and sometimes just spins around in circles before offering a flawed dream of losing yourself.
CAST: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Sydney Sweeney, Jimmi Simpson, Jeremy Bobb, Grace Van Patten
DIRECTOR: David Robert Mitchell
WRITER: David Robert Mitchell
SYNOPSIS: A man becomes obsessed with the strange circumstances of a billionaire mogul’s murder and the kidnapping of a girl.