Under the Silver Lake

Year: 2018
Production Co: Vendian Entertainment
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace

I saw trailers to this move and was kind of intrigued, but not enough to rush out to see it or add it straight to any watchlists. I heard a critic I respect really rubbish it, making a joke about David Lynch turning up and protesting about them taking all his ideas, and I think that tipped the balance. It was a funny assessment but not entirely true – as esoteric as it was, it still made a lot more sense than a David Lynch film.

The story is ostensibly that an aimless young man living in the titular LA neighbourhood, Sam (Andrew Garfield) sees a beautiful woman swimming in the pool of his apartment complex one night, Sarah (Riley Keough). When he goes to her apartment the next day hoping to cement their apparently mutual attraction the place is vacant, looking like Sarah has moved out in a hurry. It prompts Sam on an odyssey across Los Angeles to find her, and that's more or less where any solid plotting ends.

In fact I remembered almost nothing that came after without having to look up a plot description, so hazy and ethereal were the proceedings. There's a definite endpoint and there's a Hitchcockian property of a vast story going on under Sam's nose, leaving him on the trail to sort it out, but what it all means and adds up to isn't assertive enough to make any impact. In fact all I remembered without having to look it up is that it's about a weird survivalist cult rich people belong to.

As he drifts through his life with no work, a couple of casual girlfriends he doesn't even seem to like very much and little else, Sam finally seems to find purpose in his search for Sarah. After he breaks into the now empty apartment, he finds a strange symbol painted on the wall – his first clue.

It's all connected to a local underground comic book, a band of goth girls, a crime spree of someone murdering people's dogs around the neighbourhood, a homeless man, the violent death of a local billionaire and a succubus-like figure called the Owl Woman. Many of the motifs and talismans Sam comes across are distinct LA features (there's a bunker underneath Griffith Park that only a local homeless man knows about), and they all add up to something.

But after writer/director David Robert Mitchell's neat debut feature It Follows, he's going strictly for cult appeal, and he's less interested in story than he is in connecting ideas and imagery. You might get something out of it, but even without everything else being so ill-defined, Garfield is a bit of a limp rag (and portrays a pretty unlikeable character to boot) and doesn't do much to make you invested. The fact that's it's incredibly and unnecessarily long doesn't help.

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