I heard so many destroying critics about Only God Forgives before watching this movie, that I was prepared to be disappointed. Now, I have finished it, and I feel this urgent urge to yell at these people.
The film is about a boy named Julian (Ryan Gosling), who’s brother raped and killed a 16 years old prostitute, and who was murdered afterwards. If Julian thought his brother got what he deserved, his manipulative mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) didn’t, and came from the United States to Bangkok where the scene takes place, to ask for revenge.
You may say the character of Gosling in Drive and in Only God Forgives (or every of his roles since 2003) look alike, and you would be right, but, in here it is required. Julian is a cold, restraint, calm but impulsive, tormented boy who ran away from his native country, from an incestuous mother and from the place in where he killed his father with only his hands. The relation he will entertained with those will be poetically showed all through the movie. Therefore, you have to understand the character of Julian, and be careful about the details and even the way the camera’s filming; some shots wouldn’t mean the same thing if they were taken a different way.
And let’stalk about Nicolas Winding Refn‘s style; he directed Only God Forgives the way Chinese movies are directed. Very less dialogues, replaced by music, everything is very aesthetic, a beautiful photography, with a great lightening work, where the colors stand, and characters sing, creating an aesthetically fascinating ambience of a sophisticated world, very emblematic of asian countries.
We have to keep in mind that the environment in which all the characters are living is a corrupted underworld, where the police is applying her own vision of justice. Indeed, Vithaya Pansringarm (lieutenant Chang), is punishing criminals with his sword and not with prison sentences. Depending on what they did, he decides what he will do, will he kill them? Will he take away their murder weapon (which could be, an arm, an eye etc.)? Or did they already got what they deserved?
Moreover, the relationship Julian and Chang have, is near the father/son one. The boy could never killed his paternal figure again and he let Change punish him. At the end of the movie, the bond between them appeared as very powerful.
N.W. Refn’s masterpiece is about justice and atonement, as the title suggest. It delivered a message which is : you’ll never be in piece with your mind, until you purged yourself, and payed for all our sins.
Watch (you don’t need to hear) this movie as if it was a series of paintings and you had to find their meanings and as if you had to reconstitute a puzzle.