As a general rule, if something gets booed at Cannes Film Festival, you need to see it. Whether it turns out to be the worst thing of all time or an under-appreciated gem, a film that manages to stir up a crowd so much that they feel the need to loudly boo the screen must be doing... something. Fortunately for us, (but I guess, less so for him) Ryan Gosling's directorial debut was laughed straight off the screens at Cannes last year. With their loss comes our gain however, because Lost River proves to be one of the most striking and haunting films lucky enough to see a release so far this year.

Criticised heavily for being a derivative and unoriginal flick, the film does take obvious influential cues from a plethora of different directors, most prominently David Lynch, Winding Refn, and a little bit weirdly, Tim Burton. Although this borrowing of technique is far from a tragedy, as it allows the movie to flow like a mish-mash mood board of different styles and establishes Lost River as a confident and captivating first film from Gosling. With a keen eye for detail the movie's sophisticated cinematography and sense of pacing completely elevates the rather familiar narrative; not to say the plot's bad per se - it just doesn't quite live up to the imaginative surrealist imagery that dominates most of the film. But regardless of the plot's tendency to spin its wheels from time to time, Gosling's atmospheric creation of the anti-American Dream is a fascinating experience from beginning to end.

Blending natural neo-realist skits with highly scripted scenes of hyper-fantasy, Lost River actually owes as much of a debt to Under the Skin as it does to Blue Velvet. This jarring contrast between natural location shooting and tightly directed stylistic showcases really imbues small areas, such as the superbly photographed titular city of Lost River (in reality a mostly abandoned suburb of Detroit), with a tangible and authentic sense of desperate despair. In lesser hands, the depiction of such an unsavoury area could have felt uncomfortably indulgent with a kind of "look at how the lower half live" sense of voyeurism - yet Gosling's film never feels that cold, instead opting for a frank yet visually impressive representation of a broken under-class.

Of course this wouldn't work so well if it wasn't for the immersive stylings of the more mystical side of the film; evocative nightmarish landscapes that could have been ripped directly from the darkest David Lynch film, these surrealist sequences really allow the surprisingly sophisticated directorial eye of Gosling to shine through. The fantastical sections of the picture give the director the freedom to explore the more mythical side of Lost River, showcasing a twisted fairy tale cinemascape that's fuelled on blood, sex and perversion. With the ability to indulge fully in Lynchian abstraction, these odd sections boast some of the film's most striking sequences; an invigorating and moody pallet of reds, blacks and blues punctuate the theatrical violence taking place on screen, and it all makes for an intoxicating viewing experience.

Simply put, the fantastical elements of the picture allow Gosling to think up brilliant isolated sequences that embody a sense of wacky autonomy, free from the shackles of narrative restrictions. Unexpectedly, the director's greatest strength comes in his blending of music and cinema, as some of the film's most visually interesting and imaginative scenes amount to little more than musical numbers. A haunting rendition of 'Cool Water' played over an overwhelmingly tense ballroom, all the while intercut with images of Matt Smith's savage and menacing Bully, makes for the most engrossing and affecting sequence in the entire picture. But even more impressively, it's just one of the many moments where Gosling perfectly nails a sense of tone and atmosphere by pairing a superb tune with the right set of images.

So while Lost River isn't the most original picture you'll ever see, in the end it doesn't really matter. All of your favourite films only exist because directors have been inspired, either overtly or implicitly, by the work of others. Do you think we'd have Woody Allen without Ingmar Bergman? Paul Thomas Anderson without Stanley Kubrick? Neill Blomkamp without Steven Spielberg? Gosling's film borrows heavily from other filmmakers, but it doesn't copy them; instead it takes these base elements and creates something different. It's a style that's interesting and visually engrossing, steeped in fairy tale and myth that has, admittedly, been squeezed through the hypnotic lens of Blue Velvet; but a style which, at the end of the day, feels distinctively and exclusively like the work of Lost River.