Sam, intelligent but without purpose, finds a mysterious woman swimming in his apartment’s pool one night. The next morning, she disappears. Sam sets off across LA to find her, and along the way he uncovers a conspiracy far more bizarre.
‘Under the Silver Lake’, David Robert Mitchell’s latest film after the terrific ‘It Follows’, is an ambitious follow up starring Andrew Garfield as a conspiracy obsessed stoner who gets caught up in a mystery when his new neighbour suddenly disappears. This film is more expansive in its scope than ‘It Follows’, which was a film that used a simply premise to achieve something really effective, and I found the sprawling narrative and surrealism to be more messy and scattered than impactful in a positive sense. Garfield stars as Sam, a layabout with no real purpose in life, who spends his time searching for hidden messages in pop culture and exploring conspiracy theories. When a new neighbour (Riley Keough) moves in, he meets and develops a crush on her, only to find her and her roommates have left the apartment without a trace the next day. Following anyone who has a link to the apartment or his neighbour, he attempts to find out what happened and finds himself drawn into an actual conspiracy which provides him with a purpose.
‘Under the Silver Lake’ is an example of another filmmaker trying to ape David Lynch without understanding what really makes his films tick. Surrealism can be incredibly effective but there needs to be a degree of purpose, whether literal or thematically, and I’m not sure much of what happens here drives anything beyond the assumption that it’ll look quite cool on camera (and some of it does). The narrative goes more and more off the rails as Sam gets deeper into the conspiracy and as we follow him down the rabbit hole I found the developments both confusing and frankly quite stupid and nonsensical. Garfield’s performance is good, at times reminding me of Joaquin Phoenix in the equally incomprehensible ‘Inherent Vice’, but at least that film had its tongue firmly in cheek and knew what it was trying to achieve, as opposed to ‘Under the Silver Lake’ which is essentially drivel masquerading as high art.
I’m generally a sucker for a good shaggy dog tale but I found this to meander more than entertain which emphasised the flaws in the storytelling as opposed to negating them. ‘Under the Silver Lake’ does have some good qualities, namely some fun performances and a strong score from ‘Disasterpeace’ (following up the excellent work from ‘It Follows’) but this is too messy a film to recommend and I felt it fizzled away into nonsense towards the end.
Directed By: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Laura-Leigh, Zosia Mamet, Jimmi Simpson, Patrick Fischler, Luke Baines, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindholme, Don McManus, Summer Bishil, Grace Van Patten, Sydney Sweeney, India Menuez, Jeremy Bobb and David Yow