Fleabag’s review published on Letterboxd:
BEWARE THE DOG KILLER.
Nudity, sex, violence, love, advertisements, media, porn, Hollywood, music, religion - all the things that make the world go round. Under The Silver Lake confronts every single one of these aspects of life and begs the question, but what if there's more to life? What comes of any of this? What happens to us in death?
We follow our male protagonist Sam (who is played by Andrew Garfield) all around silver lake. We see the dimly lit streets, the luminescent blues that crescendo in aqua (a recurring image in the film), and the earthy greens of freshly cut bushes and lawns. We see his world through his eyes. It's a world that exists, and yet it doesn't. The Silver Lake that Sam lives in is fantasy. It's a world that is dreamy and surrealist, there's no way this world could exist right? A world where people just disappear and the only thing left behind is a symbol written in hobo dialect that translates to "keep quiet". A world where there's a dog killer out to murder every dog in existence and rid the world of canines. All of this sounds ridiculous and that's when it becomes clear that this film is in fact satire. Under The Silver Lake finds director David Robert Mitchell satirizing the world we live in via overt sexualization, violence, and the occult. He frames each of his shots so perfectly with such a beautifully natural color palette, perfectly stitching together each of his frames to explore a darker and obscene side of human nature. I loved the usage of tracking shots, shaky cam, and closeups in the film. The film also genrebends through romance, comedy, horror, mystery, and drama and it overall makes Sam's world look all the more melodramatic and ridiculous. A mystery movie that follows the "who did it" format about the occult isn't exactly the most mind blowing thing in the world, but David Robert Mitchell finds a way to go beyond genre cliches and create a world that is truly insane and thought provoking.
The cast is incredibly talented here. You can tell they're all having the time of their life in these roles, but they're also able to deliver the acting chops you don't typically see in films as unconventional as this. Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Laura-Leigh, and the rest of the cast are all sublime. But Andrew Garfield (as always) is absolutely stunning. His character is quirky, weird, sinister, and darkly hilarious. It was refreshing to see a protagonist who is in ways the true bad guy of the film. He punches children in the nose, he doesn't pay rent, he invades the women's restroom, and enters people's place of worship threatening them with a firearm. He is the villain of his own story and it makes for a film experience that is all the more exhilarating. He deserves any bad thing coming his way but at the same time you still feel for him and root for him. The film uses a protagonist like this to beg the question, are we innately bad? Or are we only being what we're coded to be? That is the essence of Under The Silver Lake. Throughout this entire film we are on this treasure hunt to basically unravel what it even means to exist in a world that is so heavily polluted with secrets and darkness. Taxidermy, occult symbols, Hitchcock, screaming birds, owls, ruby red spilling from gaping wounds, and roaring bodies of water.
Under The Silver Lake is glamorous and yet it is ugly. It's a strange little indie flick that at times bites off more than it can chew but the filmmaking here is undeniably dazzling. Under The Silver Lake never answers any of the gestalt questions it poses on escapism, gender, sex, religion, and life itself; only leaving us with its ambiguous final frame. I don't think we'll ever find the answer to any of these philosophical questions. What I am certain of is that Under The Silver Lake is a haunting, alluring, bizarre, and erotic metaphysical exploration of darkness and macabre.