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dir Derek Cianfrance
scr Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne
prd Lynette Howell, Alex Orlovsky, Jamie Patricof
with Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Ben Shenkman, Reila Aphrodite, Samii Ryan, Maryann Plunkett, Robert Eckard, Carey Westbrook, Eileen Rosen
release US 31.Dec.10, UK 14.Jan.11
Tough times: Gosling and Williams
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This portrait of a strained relationship is often difficult to watch, simply because it feels so real. Fortunately, the screenplay includes plenty of raw humanity, which gives us a chance to laugh and sigh as well.
Cindy (Williams) is clearly feeling strained in her marriage. Dean (Gosling) is a loving husband and a great dad to their lively daughter (Wladyka), but she can no longer cope with his lack of ambition as he settles for blue-collar work rather than developing his musical talent. A last-gasp weekend at a themed hotel isn't looking very promising either, but they make a real attempt to sort things out. Their issues go back to events before they even met, and it'll take a lot for Cindy to change her mind.
Woven into this central narrative are flashback scenes of the early days of the relationship, from their first meeting to their wedding. And while these events are sometimes difficult as well, the strong romantic bond between them is thoroughly endearing. Watching them joke, play and fall in love, we learn things about both of them that inform what happens later. And it's played with telling insight by both Williams and Gosling, who travel into some very dark corners along the way.
Director-cowriter Cianfrance shoots the film with a bracing sense of intimacy, using close-ups and point of view to maximum effect. The rich colour scheme of the family's home is in stark contrast to the hotel getaway, where they stay in the hilarious "future room", a cheesy windowless room that looks like a spaceship from the 1950s. In other words, a fantasy past rather than a hopeful future.
The script is especially revealing, as it emphasises the chasm between what these people want and the frightening reality they are struggling to avoid. As Cindy puts it, "How can you trust your feelings when they can just disappear?" No, this isn't a cheery film at all, and it's pretty clear from the start that a smiley happy ending isn't on the cards for these people. Although like them we are rooting for a positive solution, however difficult it might be.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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