Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives marks the next big film from acclaimed director Nicolas Winding Refn, after his latest hit movie, Drive (2011). This time around, he’s teaming back up with Ryan Gosling to tell a completely different story. It couldn’t be any further of a movie from Drive. The two are nothing alike, so please don’t go into this film thinking that it’s going to be Drive 2. You’ll be sorry you did and disappointed.

Only God Forgives follows Julian (Ryan Gosling), an owner of a Thai Boxing club in Bangkok. What we learn, is that he and his brother, Billy (Tom Burke), use the club as a front for their drug operations. When Billy viciously rapes and murders a prostitute, Lt. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) offers the girls father the chance to do whatever he likes to Billy. The father, then murders Billy with his bare hands. While Julian isn’t as affected by this, his mother Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas) is. She flies in from America to kill those behind the murder of her firstborn son.

Simple, right? Wrong! What we learn is that Crystal has a very “special” relationship with her sons. Think Oedipus. We don’t see anything, but it’s certainly hinted at. While Julian won’t kill Chang because Billy deserved what he got, Crystal is out to kill Chang and anyone associated with the murder. This doesn’t sit very well with Chang, who then is out to kill Crystal. Her only hope is Julian. But, will his weird relationship with his mother serve to protect her or let her parish? Well, I’ll say this. You’ll see: slicing, stabbing, punching, kicking, touching, meaning, and blood.

As I said earlier, Only God Forgives is nothing like Drive (except for gruesome violence). This film has a much more religious and metaphorical story that requires you to pay attention to small details in the film. The camera work and lighting is phenomenal. The sets are beautiful and the killings (bloody as they are) are displayed wonderfully. This is a very visual film that will grasp your attention and never let go. It has action, violence, suggestive themes, and everything else. But what it really is, is a work of art. This film appeals to only a select audience, so be aware of that. If you like all of the aforementioned details, then this is your movie. If this is your kind of movie, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy my Top Ten Thoughts on Only God Forgives!

Only God Forgives Whether it's with a hammer or his fists, Gosling is never one to mess around.

What I Enjoyed

What I Enjoyed Also

This is the most beautiful looking movie I’ve seen this year.

The violence in this film is handled very carefully. It’s still very violent, but it’s done well.

Cliff Martinez has created yet another fantastic score for a Refn movie.

The Oedipal essence of part of the film is odd, but is displayed very well. Not over the top, but you still realize that it’s there.

The metaphors behind this film are what drives its interesting characters.

The hidden metaphors within the film will tell you more than the movie actually does. Keep your eyes and mind open.

Kristin Scott Thomas is unbelievable in this movie.

Did I mention just how fantastic Kristin Scott Thomas is in the film? She will make your jaw drop…

The fight sequence in this film is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

This is a revenge film at its core, with some serious religious overtones scattered throughout it.

Refn’s slow moving camera shots establish the scenes and build the suspense.

The character development of Gosling’s character is a peculiar one that you need to look a bit deeper to find.

Again, Ryan Gosling is able to tell a story with few words by using his eyes and his expressions.

The dream sequences in this film are done very well. It’s a bit difficult to distinguish the dream from reality, but when you can distinguish the two, the movie makes a lot more sense.

The colors and look of this film are very appealing and are very exquisite.

This film is only about 1 hour and 30 minutes. It goes by fairly quickly and leaves you time to think about it afterwards.

Vithaya Pansringarm is fantastic in this film. His actions and presence enhanced the people around him.

The moral ambiguity of the characters is always being tested and some characters make the right choices, while some the wrong choices.

This film has a lot of meaning behind it, so you’re going to have to pay close attention to details to understand it.

This is an art film. It’s a very beautiful film. Also, it’s a film that tells its story without words (for the most part). Not everyone will understand it. If you do, like I do, you’re going to love it.


Only God Forgives couldn’t be further from Drive. The two have very little in common. However, a big thing they both share is that they’re very complex films. Only God Forgives is full of metaphors and religious meanings that aren’t always obvious. You have to spend a good deal of time thinking about this film to truly understand it. When you do understand it, you’ll come to appreciate the brilliance of this film and of Nicolas Winding Refn. It’s beauty will win you over, its violence will make you cringe, and its meanings will bring it all full circle. This is truly an amazing film (in my eyes) and one that any lover of art movies should seek out!

Only God Forgives Trailer

4.5 STARS!!!

4.5 / 5 stars     

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