Under the Silver Lake has been a long time coming. This long-delayed and mysterious film finally released earlier this year, and is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, which means the majority of the public can see it now. Does this film live up to the hype? Or was there a reason A24 seemingly buried it?
David Robert Mitchell, who directed 2014’s spectacular It Follows, follows up that work with this film, a much larger-scope and sweeping film, and he does not disappoint. In very few movies have I felt that the setting was a character, but that is certainly the case here. Throughout its almost two and a half hour runtime, Mitchell dips and swerves through all parts of Los Angeles, with a commitment to immersing us as much as possible in its strangeness and sprawl. It’s captivating, and Mitchell draws us in more every minute; he cements himself here as one of the most exciting authors of atmosphere working today.
To give away too much of this film’s plot would be a disservice, so I’ll keep it brief. The film follows Sam (Andrew Garfield) as he meets a new neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough) and falls for her. When she goes missing, Sam sets out to find her, no matter the cost. It’s a deceptively simple premise that goes through so many twists, turns, and detours that you can’t help but be drawn in, eager for the answer. The plot definitely takes inspiration from noir films, and has its share of pulp elements as well. Expect the unexpected, and you’ll probably still be surprised by what this movie has to offer.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The only two consistent characters in this film are Sam and the city itself. Garfield does what is likely his best dramatic work yet as the unassuming and fairly despicable Sam, a sleazy millennial who sees codes and hidden meanings in anything. It’s a surprisingly layered performance and a compelling character, and he’s very fun to watch the further he gets in over his head. Elsewhere in the film are Jimmi Simpson and Riley Keough doing very solid work, with Simpson bringing some offbeat comic energy as a friend of Sam’s. Characters are plentiful in this film, and full of character themselves.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score for this film is tremendous. Like the John Carpenter-esque synth score for It Follows, the soundtrack for this film is equally as modern and sinister. It’s atmospheric in the best way, used to heighten key moments in effective ways. Also, this film uses two R.E.M. songs to absolute perfection, which means major brownie points from me.
The way this film is designed around modern LA is sublime, with not one minute of it looking or feeling inauthentic. Likewise, every strange environment or character is presented in such a nonchalant way that even the viewer just accepts it and moves along. I really loved the design if this film, it felt completely realistic and yet indescribably off.
Under the Silver Lake is undoubtedly a film that will not appeal to everyone. It can be overindulgent, dense, and incredibly odd, but it’s also captivating, fascinating, and completely one of a kind. It’s a movie that lingers long after the credits roll, and will keep you thinking about what it all meant for quite some time. It’s one of the most original films of the year, and might be among the best as well.