Gosloving reader Katie Harris aka @word_scribbler was lucky enough to attend a Q&A with Nicolas Winding Refn and see Only God Forgives. She has been kind enough to share her review and thoughts with us!
*review contains major spoilers* *offensive language and disturbing scenes mentioned*
Only God Forgives reviewSee Katie's video of the Q&A here
Ok, so what do I say about Only God Forgives? I saw it tonight at a preview screening (it is released here in the UK on 2nd August).
First of all - Ryan is great. He shows his characters (Julian) psychotic tendencies and calculating ways just as brilliantly as his vulnerability and childlike qualities. He owns every scene he is in. Yes even the scene when he is being punched repeatedly in the face until he goes unconscious. Only God Forgives is like the darker, messed up, evil twin version of Drive.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Ryan's mother Jenna and wow she is creepy. So in control. So commanding. So completely out of touch with reality. Such a departure from her usual roles, in looks aswell as personality.
The bad guy Chang - played by Vithaya Pansringarm - is bad. In the way dictators are bad. Torturing someone one minute and singing Karaoke the next. The contrasts are purposely shocking.
The ways director Nicolas Winding Refn described Only God Forgives in the Q&A after the screening - sadistic, perverse, sexual, with Oedipus undertones - and his subsequent comment that he makes films about what arouses him makes for an unsettling tone. The film is violent to the extreme. Yes it shows the characters but it feels at times to just be there. Seeing the graphic torture doesn't bring anything to the film to me. Some violence and some hinting at the rest would have done fine. It's there to shock, in my opinion, and nothing else.
I should say at this point that the only other film of Refn's I've seen is Drive, which I loved. I know he's made other equally violent films. After watching Only God Forgives I can honestly say this violence is not the kind of film I enjoy watching. During the slow drawn out torture scene myself, and many others i noticed in the cinema, looked away.
On a happier note there were some funny anecdotes. Here is a video of some of the Q&A. Nicolas was asked about the timing of Only God Forgives being made, and that Drive was made after Only God Forgives was written. He also talked about casting. (Ryan was not the original Julian).
There is a particularly memorable scene, ok there are lots of memorable scenes, but this one shocked me and made me laugh at the same time. Jenna, Julian and his girlfriend (aka a prostitute) are sitting at a table in a bar/restaurant. Jenna is being particularly rude towards the girlfriend. She starts discussing Julian's cock size compared to his (now dead) brother. The brother who is/was her favourite. The brother who was the biggest (yep...). Then she calls Julian's girlfriend a 'cum dumpster'. Google this if you don't know what this means. Or maybe don't. Anyway, this was mentioned in the Q&A. How did Nicolas come up with this insult? He asked Ryan! He asked Ryan to list all the worst ways to insult a woman. It was a long list. This was the first one. Nicolas had to ask Ryan what it meant and Ryan explained. Then when they were first on set and Kristin had the script she asked Nicolas what it meant and he had to explain ha ha.
Other memorable scenes (good and bad):
- Julian being tied to a chair with fabric around his wrists, whilst his girlfriend/prostitute masturbated in front of him.
- Julian demanding his girlfriend removes her dress (and therefore stand in underwear) in the middle of the street. And her doing what he asks.
- Julian/Ryan wearing a suit. Enough said.
- Julian fighting/boxing in suit/waistcoat/shirt ... before being punched unconscious
- the most disturbing scene - after finding his mother dead from knife wound Julian err... slides his fingers into the open wound and..yea. just no. (lets forget this scene) Ryan wearing a suit. repeat. Ryan wearing a suit...
I did enjoy the film overall. Ryan and Kristin (and others) acted well and were a credit to their characters and the storyline , but there were some extreme scenes that I wouldn't want to watch again. It is definitely not an easy film to watch.
review by Katie Harris aka @word_scribbler
(Currently studying towards a BA Hons Degree in Creative Writing)
Katie was also lucky enough to get Nicolas's autograph