wed 29/05/2024

DVD: Only God Forgives | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Only God Forgives

DVD: Only God Forgives

Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling reunite for the otherworldly follow up to ‘Drive’

Ryan Gosling submerges himself in 'Only God Forgives's' rich, artificial palette

Reactions to Only God Forgives are going to be defined by expectations. Its star, Ryan Gosling, is an all-purpose arts polymath equally at home with music and film, who has directed and written as well as acted. Its director, the Danish-born Nicolas Winding Refn, has no problems with pushing genres beyond their limits despite working within America’s film industry.

Gosling was in Refn’s 2011 film Drive, and their follow-up might have been expected to develop that film’s approach by once again hyper-stylising the familiar.

To some extent, Only God Forgives does. But it also goes further – and further out – than any of either’s previous work. The dedication to Alejandro Jodorowsky hints that Only God Forgives will be strange and unreal. And it is. Instead of being a hindrance, Refn’s colour blindness has given the film and its Bangkok setting a rich, artificial palette which renders everything about it otherworldly. Gosling’s aloof portrayal of his lead character, Julian, generates a power integral to the film’s impact. Kristin Scott Thomas’s turn as his mother might play against type, but it’s just as forceful. The violence, when it comes (which is regularly), has a detachment similar to that inherent in the work of David Cronenberg.

Only God Forgives is fantastic and hypnotic. It succeeds on its own terms. The extras on the DVD are interesting, but do not add to the understanding of this formidable film. There's a making-of in which we see Refn setting up scenes and special effects being devised, but nothing about what underpins the film is given away. Refn’s commentary track is fascinating and frequently hilarious, but remains oblique. Understanding isn’t necessary though. The best approach is to go into Only God Forgives cold and allow this masterpiece to cast its spell.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Overleaf: watch Nicolas Winding Refn discussing the making of Only God Forgives

Goslings’s aloof portrayal of Julian generates a power integral to the film’s impact


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters