Julian runs a Thai boxing club in Thailand, but his real income comes from a drug smuggling ring operated with his brother Billy. When Billy is suddenly murdered, their crime lord mother, Crystal, arrives in London to bury her first born son. Crystal vows vengeance on the man responsible for Billy's death, forcing Julian to seek out and destroy the man responsible. Nicholas Winding Refn's Only Good Forgives is a moody, hypnotic experience that very much could be his most accomplished film to-date. This is a far less accessible movie than Drive that is some sort of blend of Seijun Suzuki and Powell & Pressburger. Much of the criticism levied at Only God Forgives is that it's superficial or another example of style over substance but that couldn't be farther from the truth. What I find interesting is so many people don't realize that this is narrative that has been told a thousand times before but Refn tells it in a truly unique way. This is a film about a man whose been born and raised in a harsh environment where all he knows is death and violence. Refn does a fantastic job at capturing Julian's psyche, showing the perversions that exist in his mind, warping everything he sees into death and despair. Julian is forced into being something he is not by his overbearing mother, leading him to feel ashamed and guilty of the violence he has committed. This story follows the tradition of silent films, relying on very little on dialogue, with nothing being specifically told to the viewer but rather presented to them in a completely visual way. Like all of Refn's films the cinematography is outstanding with nearly every composition evoking mood. I loved the use of symmetrical framing throughout the film which could be commenting on how similar both Julian and Mai, the man responsible for Billy's death, truly are. The use of symbolism towards the end of the film really resonated with me, where Julian reaches into his mother's deceased body as if he is trying to feel a warmth from her instead of the cold demeanor he has known his whole life. For me, Nicholas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives is an incredibly spiritual experience about a man whose had blood on his hands his entire life and is finally able to be set free and it could be my favorite film of his to-date.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.