Andrew Garfield plays Sam, an unemployed man who’s one week away from losing his home. He becomes fascinated with his neighbour Sarah (Riley Keough) who mysteriously disappears overnight. As he investigates he finds himself immersed in a confusing conspiracy.
What did happen to Sarah? Is the pirate involved? How does this relate to the tragic death of a local billionaire? Does a mysterious self published comic book hold clues? Are Jesus and the Brides of Dracula just a band? Is it related to the terrible dog killer? Is the Owl Woman real? What is the neighbour’s bird saying? Are the answers on the back of an old cereal box? Is Sam what he appears to be? When is this film set exactly? How much more blatant can director David Robert Mitchell be about his Hitchcock references?
The film is about Los Angeles and the mythology of Los Angeles (and therefore most western popular culture). It draws from urban legends, conspiracy theories, classic Hollywood, horror movies, film noir, modern music and video games. It’s not only a story that features these elements but a commentary about them. It actually achieves a great deal of the ambitions of Spielberg’s Ready Player One, with much more intrigue.
What is most important is that whilst the mystery builds, the film remains captivating. This is in part due to Andrew Garfields versatile performance as Sam. No matter how crazy the world around him becomes he is an anchor for the audience and compels us to try and follow the trail further down the rabbit hole.
Mitchell’s direction is superb. The atmosphere is dreamlike as narrative cul-de-sacs are lavishly rendered and then abandoned as the next clue arises. The effect is a dream-like meander through a strange but familiar world. As one would expect from the director of It Follows there are also moments of genuinely chilling horror.
Under the Silver Lake is an extraordinarily ambitious film about modern life. It’s about the myth of the crusading hero. It’s intelligent and provocative and funny and scary and completely unforgettable.
5 / 5