Under the Silver Lake
Dir: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace
(USA, 15, 2hr 19mins)
Sam (Andrew Garfield) is a thirty-something cinephile out of work, behind on his rent, and seeking distraction. He quickly becomes infatuated with Sarah (Riley Keough), an unknown woman swimming in his apartment’s pool. When Sarah suddenly disappears, Sam begins an amateur investigation and finds himself nosediving into a conspiratorial rabbit hole in the heart of Los Angeles.
Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, Under the Silver Lake is a film of bits and pieces, of fits and bursts. In reflecting Sam’s psyche, Mitchell’s composition of the film foregrounds a cine-literate and heavily voyeuristic frame, with his camerawork evoking both Hitchcock and De Palma, and a key moment capturing Sarah akin to the uncompleted Marilyn Monroe film Something’s Got to Give (1962). Elsewhere, Mitchell’s direction creates brief bursts of effectively cringe-inducing humour, and others of tension and grotesque violence, with Mitchell flexing the genre muscles established by his 2014 horror hit It Follows.
While such fleeting moments (alongside Garfield’s wide-eyed portrayal of the pathetic central figure) do prove enjoyable, the wider script and film lacks the sense of pace, genuine mystery and connective tissue needed to keep it engaging across its runtime. Similarly, while Under the Silver Lake teases points about internet-born fears, fading urban legends, and the cannibalistic nature of media production, it does so through obtuse conversations and monologues, without further development. With the film’s interesting components becoming crushed under its own episodic trudge, the themes here don’t require more explanation, but rather exploration.
While there is appreciation to be found in the film’s adamant approach and uncategorizable nature, Mitchell has not fully polished each of the aspects he is working with. Under the Silver Lake is ultimately a a scattershot film, resulting in faint smirks, ambivalent intrigue, and clunky discourse.
Words Edward Lee