| Writer-director Derek Cianfrance puts love and marriage under a microscope. This drama revolves around the relationship between Dean (Ryan Gosling from "Fracture," "Half Nelson" and "The Notebook") and Cindy (Michelle Williams from "Shutter Island" and "Brokeback Mountain"), a contemporary married working-class couple. It fluidly moves between the past and the present. The color is drained with a washed-out look for the past. The present is shown in vivid colors.
They met and fell in love about six years ago. The handsome Dean works for a Brooklyn-based moving company. A job involving relocating an old man to a retirement home in Pennsylvania offers Dean a first glimpse of the pretty blonde visiting her grandmother in a room across the hall. He gives her a company business card. She will not give him her name.
A month later they end up riding on the same bus. They hit it off on an impromptu first date. They stop in front of a store on the sidewalk. Cindy does an improvised tap dance while Dean plays his ukulele and sings "You Always Hurt the One You Love." This symbolic song comes up repeatedly throughout the movie.
A controversial foreplay scene originally earned the movie an NC-17 rating.
An unwanted pregnancy complicates matters. When she is unable to go through with an abortion, Dean makes the ultimate sacrifice by agreeing to marry her knowing full well that he is not the child's father.
There are no easy answers from the past as to how a couple falls in love. Even more disconcerting is the present, where it is obvious that things have deteriorated completely in a marriage on the rocks.
Dean is a loving father to his darling and precious daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka). They live in a wooded area in Pennsylvania.
Dean has no ambition and is content working as a house painter. Cindy had aspirations of being a doctor. She now works as a nurse for an obstetrician.
After burying their dog, Dean coerces Cindy into spending the night at a cheesy sex motel. Dean wants to have another baby. Cindy rejects him sexually and locks herself in the bathroom. An angry confrontation ensues at her place of employment the next day.
The movie doesn't place blame on either party. It is unclear why their relationship turned sour, but their ineffective communication blocks any form of compromise. It is clearly established that they settled for a relationship initially based solely on sex and physical attraction. They had no blueprint as to how to be a family and lacked healthy parental role models growing up.
Their respective backgrounds provide clues helping the viewer pinpoint what went haywire in their marriage.
Gosling and Williams play off each other in a natural way. They are onscreen for the entire 112-minute running time and put on an acting showcase worthy of awards recognition. Williams earlier this week received an Oscar nomination in the Best Actress category. Although glaringly snubbed by Academy Award voters, Gosling received nominations in the leading actor slot from the Golden Globes, the Satellite Awards, the Online Film Critics, London Critics Circle and Chicago Film Critics Association.
The dialogue is meaningful and realistic. The first-rate cinematography and an explosive soundtrack make an indelible impression. This sad and very personal movie will generate lots of discussions. Marriage counselors and divorce lawyers should get a spike in business.
The movie debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (ultimately won by "Winter's Bone"). The movie opens exclusively for a limited engagement at the Glenwood Arts, AMC Town Center 20 and Cinemark Palace at the Plaza.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"