Film Review: Under The Silver Lake

David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake is enigmatic and compelling. Mitchell surpasses It Follows with  some outstanding filmmaking.

Sam notices a mysterious woman swimming in his apartment complex’s pool. When she goes missing, Sam embarks on a quest to discover what happened to her…

Under The Silver Lake is an engrossing mystery. For the first quarter of the film, writer-director David Robert Mitchell throws quite a bit at the audience. This includes the dog killer, the missing billionaire, and the voyeurism of the protagonist. The combination of real and imagined keeps viewers guessing.

Exposition through news reports works well to give necessary details in a succinct manner. The Comic Man brings these conspiracy elements together, propelling Sam to continue his mission. Sam functions as a detective, tracking down clues to solve the mystery. The obsession of the protagonist deepens as Under The Silver Lake progresses. Viewers will wonder where exactly the film is going. The cast of characters are enigmatic, with unusual tics. Yet none feel out of place in this bizarre world Mitchell has created. The dialogue is great; Sam’s monologues are always interesting, and often amusing. 

There are various elements in the film that hark back to other filmmakers. A Hitchcockian influence pervades the film (with the initial voyeurism reminiscent of Rear Window). Influences from David Lynch and the Coen Brothers are also present. Under The Silver Lake is very much a Hollywood film, in more than just setting. The seediness of the backdrop is palpable. References to both films and the strangeness of the city are abundant. 

The discussion on mystery that takes place is the film in a nutshell. Mitchell focuses on pop culture, questioning its dispensability and its meaning. As the film progresses, the themes become more encompassing. Mitchell gives the audience plenty to ponder. 

Camerawork in the film is great. Mitchell mixes long shots with quick zooms. The rapid, fluid camerawork is offset by more laconic shots. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis frames some very picturesque shots. Nighttime and day time have distinct feels, capturing the idea that the city comes alive at night. The animated sequence going inside the comic book is a great device. Feels natural, despite a sudden mix of live action into animation. 

The score at times echoes the great Bernard Herrmann. The traditional score is a good contrast with the contemporary diegetic music. Older songs and presence of other archaic aspects give the film a period feel, although this is not explicit. Andrew Garfield delivers a compelling performance as Sam. Often acting alone, Garfield is energetic and always convincing. Grace Van Patten and Jeremy Bobb are good in minor roles.

Engaging, ambitious, and mesmerising, Mitchell’s neo-noir mystery is one of the year’s best pictures.

Under The Silver Lake will be released in DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 26th August 2019.

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