Review: Mystery is hidden in 'Under the Silver Lake'

Metro Detroit native's follow-up to 'It Follows' poses questions it never really answers

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Andrew Garfield in "Under the Silver Lake."

A shaggy dog mystery whose very essence is a mystery, "Under the Silver Lake" asks a lot of questions and answers them with even more questions. 

That makes this quintessentially Los Angeles tale a frustrating viewing experience, but its open-endedness will help it rally a cult-like following of believers. Expect to see it booked at midnight screenings for years to come.  

Clawson native David Robert Mitchell has strands of "The Big Lebowski," "Inherent Vice," "Mulholland Drive" and "Southland Tales" floating around "Silver Lake," his follow up and total left hand turn from his 2015 horror hit "It Follows" (which was, itself, a hard left from his debut feature, "The Myth of the American Sleepover"). 

Sam (Andrew Garfield, superb) is a perpetually stoned slacker-type in L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood. When one of his neighbors disappears, he becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her, which leads him down a bizarre path that involves Nintendo Power magazines, L.A.'s truly underground (like, actually underground) secret worlds, the hidden messages in pop music and possibly the meaning of existence itself.

Mitchell's worldview folds in on itself when his characters attend a screening of "The Myth of the American Sleepover," while "The Amazing Spider-Man" star Garfield gets his hand stuck on an Amazing Spider-Man comic. Get it? Well, it would help if there was more to get, as "Silver Lake" spends the majority of its too-long running time drifting further into its own wormhole.

Back on the surface, there's an exhilarating sequence of Sam losing his mind to R.E.M.'s mid-90s conspiratorial anthem "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" It's a song about searching for meaning in pop culture and coming up bone dry. It's perfectly fitting here.

'Under the Silver Lake'


Rated R: for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language throughout and some drug use

Running time: 140 minutes