Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Maryann Plunkett
SCR: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis
DIR: Derek Cianfrance
MPAA: R for strong graphic sexual content, language and a beating.
This searing low-budget drama is a difficult film to get warm and fuzzy about. It cuts so deep and frustrates on so many intimate levels, most of us would rather just walk away rather than count its virtues.
After all, it’s about the steady implosion of a young married couple told from various stages in their relationship. Cindy (Williams), from a verbally-abusive family environment, is career-driven and practical. Her husband Dean (Gosling) made a difficult choice in marrying her after she got pregnant and has become a hollowed-out shell of a man desperately devoted to his wife, but routinely crushed by her apathy. To reveal more would rob the movie of its surprising details.
Writer-director Cianfrance embraced a wonderfully fluid improvisational process that found his actors living together and growing to love and hate one another – and it shows. It’s a deep-level performance that cannot be faked and, for her descent into emotional hell, Williams was awarded with a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
For my money, Gosling deserved a matching nod. His work is no less revelatory and painful, and I’m not even talking about that hairline. But despite the non-linear structure and intimate performances, there is something too nuanced and precious about the film’s style.
The result is the difference between watching exotic fish swimming free or stuck in an aquarium. (Weinstein Company)
— DENNIS WILLIS