The Most Polarizing Film of the Year: Only God Forgives

July 20, 2013 11:15 am

Only God Forgives (2013)

I literally just finished watching Only God Forgives and there are no words I can think of in the English language that can describe the experience I had while watching it. It left me discombobulated. On top of that, I’m actually watching it right now, as I type this, because my mom saw that I ordered a Ryan Gosling film On Demand and thought to herself, “Oh hey, I know that guy! He’s from The Notebook! I should watch that!” She is going to be severely, severely disappointed.

As a hardcore Nicolas Winding Refn fan, this movie even left me scratching my head. I’m trying to comprehend how I feel about this film but it’s very difficult.

In a nut shell, the movie is about Julian (Ryan Gosling) and Lt. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) working on two opposites ends of the spectrum. Chang is (somewhat) responsible for the death of drug dealer Julian’s perverted older brother. Julian’s mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) visits Thailand with intent on finding and killing the man responsible for her son’s death, summoning Julian to do her bidding, but things get really complicated and plans become royally f***ed.

First off, I’m going to note right away that the movie has been critically panned, mustering up a 34% rating on RottenTomatoes. I don’t think that’s entirely fair—but it was to be expected. This is Refn’s most abstract film to date and it’s easy to see why fans of Drive were completely befuddled and let down by its successor.

Rather than following along the path that Bronson and Drive set, Refn takes a right hook back to start and recycles many elements of his critical and financial flop, Fear XOnly God Forgives is a very Lynchian film from start to finish. Refn isn’t interested in spelling things out completely to the viewer and that’s somewhat refreshing. Somewhat.

In terms of soundtrack and cinematography, Only God Forgives is stunning. Like just about every other Refn film, the look and sound are key components in creating a strong cinematic structure. Nobody does it better.

The main problem I have with this movie is not its lack of answers, but its incredible turtle-esque pace. You could watch the film on fast forward and not miss a beat. Refn lingers for long periods of time on facial expressions, and while it does work in a lot of portions of the film, it becomes grating after a while.

In the end, I cannot recommend this movie to all audiences. It’s certainly a niche film and is, in its own way, a strong palette for everything but traditional storyline. Incestuous overtones and a theme of children ultimately paying for the sins of their parents make this an interesting movie to interpret, but its slow pace and lack of answers may turn even the most active cinephiles away.

If you’re looking for a truly original cinematic experience, I suggest you watch it. If you liked the movie Transformers, you better stay away.


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