Under The Silver Lake is what would happen if Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker did a bunch of acid, had an awful trip, and slept about five hours per week. Or maybe if he just lived in L.A instead of New York. It’s a neo-noir homage to pop culture and conspiracy theories – the good kind of conspiracy theories, about hidden messages in Beatles songs and the Masonic Lodge, not the bad modern ones about vaccines and poorly shaped planets. Those were the days, man.
Sam, a 33 year old man with a pretty nice apartment and no discernible form of income, is fascinated by cryptic messages in songs and comic books. He wanders about with his hands in his pockets and looking slightly bewildered – an expression which Garfield really has mastered at this point – and meets a woman living in the same apartment complex as him. They smoke weed together one night, and she and her room mates have all moved out the very next morning. Her disappearance starts a cascade of unexpected events involving such characters as a naked murderer owl lady, a skunk, a dog murderer, a songwriter, homeless royalty, and an elite cult – to name just a few.
The plot is thick with cyclical detail, and it really is impossible to tell where it’ll go next. That’s a risky play in a narrative, but the film does err on the side of keeping you interested without being too indulgently weird. The soundtrack - primarily written by American composer Disasterpeace - absolutely rocks, brilliantly marrying mid-century mystery with late-80s pop. Garfield’s performance is central to the film, assisted by a brilliant cast of supporting actors including Riley Keough and Jimmi Simpson. It really is a film that’s difficult to put into words, so I recommend you just give it a shot next time you’re in the mood for a puzzle.