When Ryan Gosling’s “Lost River” premiered at Cannes last May, everybody thought he was making a movie about Detroit. And on Friday at South by Southwest, he told Mexican director and friend Guillermo del Toro that he indeed was thinking of Detroit, but that he didn’t make the reference explicit because he was trying to be more universal.
Gosling, who grew up in Canada, said he always saw Detroit as a child as a symbol of America, and that he revered it for being the home of Motown and the car industry. But as he shows in “Lost River,” there are miles and miles of abandoned homes, with a few families living in isolation in what was once a vibrant neighborhood.
That’s the essential image in “Lost River,” where a mother is trying to protect her children and her home place as people move out and gangsters move in, trying to be what Gosling calls “the king on nobody.”
Gosling says the idea of a single mother trying to hold a family together was something personal, since his mother was also single.
Gosling told some amusing tales about trying to film on location, and said he eventually gave up on keeping local residents out of the movie. At one point, he said, they were filming at a gas station, and it was clear that the gas station was selling more than gas to the locals — and that the locals weren’t going to wait for the shoot to end. So he just incorporated the locals into the movie.
“Lost River,” which has only one screening at SXSW, stars Christina Hendricks plays a single mother of two, Billy, who is living in her grandmother’s old home, and she wants to hang on to it. But all signs point to the contrary. Iain De Caestecker plays Billy’s teen son. Meanwhile, a gangster who calls himself Bully rides around in a convertible and announces to everyone that he’s the master of this domain. The movie takes a very strange detour when the mother begins to work at a bizarre theater where the actors pretend they’re being murdered.
The only screening is at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Topfer. And it might be your only chance to see it on the big screen. The distributor is reportedly planning to open it in New York and Los Angeles, but make it video on demand elsewhere, including Austin.