Perhaps one of the most divisive films recently has been Only God Forgives. Off the back of Drive, you would think Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling could do no wrong however Only God Forgives wasn’t accepted very well by the public. It was accepted in competition for the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival in 2013 but lost out to the fantastic Blue is the Warmest Colour.
It is a weird film in my opinion as it comes across as both trying too hard and not trying hard enough. Trying too hard with regard to its symbolism, an incredible reliance on colours and the slow, overacting scenes with Ryan Gosling which were much better executed in Drive. Yet, you could criticise the film for not trying hard enough with its dialogue or with its plot. Many of the criticisms I have read or heard of the film revolve around this, however I don’t think all of them are vindicated. Criticisms such as “nothing happened” or “it was just boring” aren’t just enough in describing the flaws of the film if you ask me.
I think it’s an ambitious film which failed in its intentions overall, but at the heart of it is still a good movie. There is a lot of hate for this film and so much so that Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film The Neon Demon‘s marketing has been describing him as the “Director of Drive” for good reason. This, and many many negative reviews and ratings already across the web have led me to try and focus more on the positive notes of Only God Forgives. The performances of Vithaya Pansringarm and Kristin Scott Thomas are great – Thomas is almost unrecognisable, to me anyway!
I read a review of the film which likened the plot to a Western, which I don’t disagree with. Usually I am not a fan of Western films as they are usually simplistic in the plot department but to see that type of plot developed to the underground crime world in Thailand with a cultural twist was very interesting.
This is a film which has been highly contentious and I can see why but I feel has unjustly harboured harsh criticism for the wrong reasons. Refn is an experienced director but I hope he has learned his lesson from Only God Forgives as I look forward to The Neon Demon.