★ ★ ★ ★
So, this movie was kind of what I was expecting in a lot of ways, but in a lot of other ways a lot different than I would have imagined. I knew it was going to be a low-budget indie flick, but I was not expecting the level of emotion presented in the film. Based on the ads, it seemed like it was being marketed as a light romantic comedy; that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. This film is definitely an emotionally charged drama in every sense of the definition.
The premise is fairly simple: Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a couple; their relationship is told in a series of flash forwards to the present day and flash backs from when they first met. Honestly, that’s exactly what the logline of this film would have to be; it’s that simple. In present day, Dean, a painter with no education and sort of “from the streets”, and Cindy, a nurse who once had aspired to be a doctor, live a fairly normal lower-middle to middle class life. They have a kid, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), between them and seem to have a very stressed relationship together, though they both very much love their daughter. In the flash back sequences, we see student, Cindy, and mover, Dean, falling in love. The two characters are vastly different from their past selves to their present selves in how they behave in general and towards each other. Essentially, this film is the tale of Dean and Cindy falling in love and, much later, falling out of love.
Like I said, this is a very straight forward plot. Story-wise, direction-wise and cinematography-wise, there isn’t really anything stand out about this film from any other well-made indie drama/romance. What sets this film apart and what makes it so well revered by critics, in my opinion, are the performances by Gosling and Williams. They truly make this film; each of them portray the characters with such vital realism that you truly feel like you are experiencing the emotions they are going through on screen. By the time the film was done, both Maddie and I were literally mentally and physically exhausted.
This is not a perfect film, but definitely a jewel of independent cinema. It’s films like these that come along and make the careers of some young director, this time Derek Cianfrance, that keep all the rest of us in the game, constantly forcing ourselves to create a better and better product to compete.