Chris and I saw Only God Forgives with our friend Jordan. Here’s what he had to say:


Staring into the mirror for an hour, memorizing every detail of your eyes until you’ve fallen deep into the gaze of a face that is not your own, and then walking away with only the faintest memory of what just happened…this is what it felt like stepping out of the theater after viewing Only God Forgives. It’s a surreal experience; a unique seedling of an idea sprouting from the mind of Nicolas Winding Refn. It grows slowly, meticulously, and by the time an hour and a half have passed you’re looking at a fully grown tree of a film. Its pacing is the equivalent of the buildup to the final thrill of a theme park ride, except you never reach that thrill, and yet that is what makes it worth watching. While it deals heavily with consequences, it’s more interested in showing us how each character reaches those consequences rather than dwelling on what happens afterwards. I would be perfectly happy if more films followed this route.

The title of the film appears to describe what occurs within well enough: Only God Forgives. Ryan Gosling’s Julian isn’t a forgiving character. His mother is a ruthless manipulator and her first born son (a title she enjoys throwing in Julian’s face) Billy is the spawn of all she represents, and they certainly aren’t forgiving anyone. Even Vithaya Pansringarm’s Lt. Chang, the so-called ‘Angel of Vengeance’, is one too many steps from true forgiveness. He may believe himself to be the “god” of his own form of justice, but in the end, he acts for his own stilted truth. In an underground culture where few are truly innocent, the plot rotates in a surreal exchange of scenes where each character is killed, maimed, set free or even seemingly dissolved of their sins…but in the end, someone pays their price. No one truly forgives. In the end, only God forgives.


I really liked watching this movie. This tied for my favorite Nicolas Winding Refn movie with Bronson.

Only God Forgives is a movie that people are really going to love and have a lot to say about it in terms of technique, story and acting. A lot of people are going to love it and shit on people that don’t.

Only God Forgives is a movie that people are really going to hate and have a lot to say about it in terms of technique, story and acting. A lot of people are going to hate it and shit on people that do.

Don’t be an asshole either way.

So it’s weird, because I feel like I almost shouldn’t like Only God Forgives. In a lot of ways, despite appearances, it’s much closer to Valhalla Rising than Drive, even though Only God Forgives has Ryan Gosling and music by Cliff Martinez. It’s almost Tree of Life-like; it feels more like a series of scenes strung together more than a movie. But unlike Tree of Life, it totally works with Only God Forgives.
At the risk of sounding pretentious, I think Only God Forgives is more along the lines of a sensory experience rather than a movie. The lighting is kind of incredible; for long scenes at a time the lighting is either very blue or very red. Lighting like this made me feel antsy and weird. Then there’s the lack of dialogue (I would be surprised if Ryan Gosling said more than 10 lines) and the music. The score of Only God Forgives is like the movie: slow, sometimes monotone. The music weirdly lulls you. Between the lighting (I never thought I would be so affected by lighting, except to notice how bad it is in Tyler Perry movies) and the music, I swear I felt like I was completely intoxicated in some way, even though I was totally sober. It was weird. After the movie I felt like I almost didn’t know what happened. But it was too interesting for that to be a bad thing.
Also, I have to say, I was sort of excited to see Kristin Scott Thomas in her role here. I feel like I usually see her as a proper, nice English lady. But in Only God Forgives she’s more of a weird Donatella Versace/Dina Lohan hybrid. It was sort of crazy to see. It was almost distracting at first, but she’s such a good actress that it works.
There’s some interesting Freudian stuff going on here, too, that I feel like I can’t even go into. I really think Only God Forgives needs to be in theaters; you need it to be totally dark around you when you see it with nothing else going on except the screen in front of you. It’s a completely crazy experience.