Every time my mom comes and visits we usually try to see a movie. The past few years we have seen movie that would go on to be nominated for Oscars like Life of Pi, The Help, and Inglourious Basterds. This visit I decided we will do something different and rent Only God Forgives on VOD a movie that will not likely get any nominations come Oscar time. And since this is the second month of the 5 Obstruction Blogathon I decided to interview my mom on her thoughts.
Only God Forgives is the latest movie from Nicolas Winding Refn the director of Drive and Bronson. He re-teams with Ryan Gosling who also starred in Drive. In this movie Gosling plays Julian an American living in Bangkok's underworld. Julian and his brother Billy run a boxing club that covers for a drug smuggling ring. When Billy rapes and murders a young girl the cop on the case Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) lets the victims dad kill Billy in return. When Julian doesn't exact revenge on the dad because he decides that Billy got what he deserved his domineering mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) flies to Bangkok to take care of it.
I have to admit I have only seen two or Refn's work Drive and Bronson and have heard that this movie more closely resembles Valhalla Rising as far as tone and pacing. This is a slow and I mean very slow moving movie. There is hardly any dialog and if you thought Gosling was quiet in Drive he pretty much mute in this movie, but nobody does silent brooding like Gosling. Kristin Scott Thomas isn't in the movie for many scenes but she has the most dialog and she delivers a monster of a performance. She is one of the best villains in a recent memory. She controls her sons using any means necessary. There are lots of hints that she had an incestuous relationship with both her sons, and she constantly puts them and everyone else down.
Besides the great acting there are a few things this movie has going for it. Refn knows how to shoot beautiful scenes. You get the feeling that every scene is very thought out and the lighting and shadows are all there on purpose. It all looks amazing. The other thing that Refn is known for is extreme violence and this movie has that. There are several scenes that are very graphic. Refn re-teamed with Cliff Martinez who scored Drive and the score in this movie might not be as good but is memorable.
The big problem with this movie is that it makes no sense, and that is a very big problem. You get the feeling Refn has something he wants to say but it never really comes across. This is one of those movies that leaves you scratching your head and frustrated. It leaves a lot to interpretation if you are willing to spend the time thinking about it. I still haven't figured it all out. Refn has said that the movie is about a man who wants to fight God and a man who thinks he is God. The movie appears to take place in a mythical version of Bangkok. Chang dishes his own brand of justice with a sword that he seems to pull from thin air. An example is after letting the father kill Billy Chang cuts off the guys arm for letting his daughter become a prostitute. Meanwhile Julian internalizes everything. He appears to be a masochist. He watches a stripper while his hands are tied down and constantly clenches his fists. But he also has visions of Chang leading me to believe he knows his future. In discussing the movie with others one theory is that the movie is about being a man and getting your hands cut off is symbolism for castration. I think it is a story of atonement and Julian realized that his family must pay for their sins and even though he does try to save himself and his mom the final outcome can not be changed. But like the title says Only God Forgives and no one in this movie is God or forgiving. There are no good guys in this movie only people that think they are doing what is right.
So watching a movie with graphic violence and incestuous relationships is odd with your mom. But I was glad there were no graphic sex of nudity. But since this movie was such an odd movie I wanted to get her thoughts on the movie. So here are 10 Question with my mom about Only God Forgives.
First I wanted everyone to get an idea of what kind of movies she likes so I started off with a few easy questions.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Life of Pi, Fiddler on the Roof, Dogma, Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein and any movie that has Fred Astaire in it. There aren't any movie I don't like.
What do you in movies?
Action, music, good lines and happy endings.
What did you think of Only God Forgives? and Why?
It sucked. It was not entertaining at all and very confusing.
How does it compare to other movies I have made you watch like Memento and Requiem for a Dream?
Even Memento had a better story line, and they weren't as graphic. And neither one gave me nightmare.
What did you think of the violence?
I didn't think the violence fit the crimes. It was too over the edge. Too graphic it gave me nightmares.
The title is Only God Forgives. Some say the movie is a religious metaphor. What do you think?
Strange way to see God. If that is what God is then I might need to become an Atheist.
You said you liked Life of Pi which also had religious metaphors how do you think they compare?
Life of Pi didn't portray an angry or vengeful God. Also, it told Pi's spiritual journey.
The director Nicholas Winding Refn said this movie is about a man who wants to fight God and a man who thinks he is God What do you think about that?
Chang thinks he is God and doles out punishment. Julian tried to avoid any confrontation and didn't want to be bothered. He was no match for Chang and I don't even know why he asked for the fight.
A lot has been said about the score and look of the movie. What did you think?
Music wasn't bad but not that memorable. Everything moved so slowly that I lost interest and didn't care.
Would you recommend this movie to your friends?
No, I would recommend they don't waste their time.
Overall: I would give it a 3 out of 5 but only for people wanting to put the time in to dissect the movie.
My mom would give it 0 out of 5 it is too slow and made no sense.