Release Date: 2010
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Why I picked this: The premise and the two leads have me interested
Intense and emotional, this movie examines a marriage from two different points in time. The movie begins with the marriage between Dean, played by Ryan Gosling, and Cindy, played by Michelle Williams, nearly in shambles. They both live with a daughter with Dean having a low income job painting houses and Cindy working as a nurse. Dean is beginning to bald and appears to lack ambition; Cindy is frustrated by this, as well as with his relaxed approach to parenthood. This story is intercut with flashbacks to how Dean and Cindy met; Dean again has a low income job, but appears very content; he is also shown to idealize love and romance. Meanwhile, Cindy is a college student in a relationship that she is frustrated with. They meet by chance and begin a courtship. In the present day, Dean attempts to liven up his marriage with Cindy by spending a night with her at a motel, but even before that, they are seen arguing over menial things, such as her encounter with an ex-boyfriend. What follows is a string of scenes at this motel depicting their frustrations with each other, and some graphic but unsettling sex scenes. There is meant to be a clear juxtaposition between these two points in time; there are some similar moments in both where the characters react differently towards each other. The earlier scenes have a sort of grainy quality to the image, almost like watching a home video, while the present day scenes look very standard in terms of image quality. The film is shot with a handheld style, but this is more evident in the scenes depicting their courtship; as the couple runs around, the camera violently follows suit; even during still moments, the camera is not completely still. This adds a certain visceral quality to these scenes, and makes their love and fun and passion more evident. The motel scenes in the present are cleverly lit, using an appropriate use of the color blue. There are scenes of silence between the two, but their actions say everything needed. This movie obviously has themes involving love, but has a cynical message on the subject matter. There are other marriages that are touched upon in this movie, such as that of Cindy’s parents, and they are all depicted as never working at the end. Though Cindy’s parents are still together, it is clear that their love as dissipated; her father is often hot-tempered and angry just at the dinner table. While this message may ring true, I’m unsure if this scenario was the best one to showcase this, as Dean and Cindy were essentially forcing their marriage due to a certain circumstance. Because of this, the characters may not be able to resonate with much of the audience. Regardless, both Gosling and Williams give very earnest and intense performances, especially during the present day sequences. They also both have charm during the sequences depicting their courtship, making it harder to watch the present day sequences.
Its content might be too intense for some, but this is a well shot and very well acted movie depicting a faltering romance.