Greetings again from the darkness. OK, so I was extremely surprised to be the only male in a theater with 30 plus viewers. I had not previously thought of this as a chick flick. In fact, it is quite a weighty relationship expose’ and that probably explains the lack of present men. What is surprising is that while the film is about the ever-so-slow crumbling of a marriage, the Hollywood staple of “men are slime” is missing and no one person is saddled with the blame.
You might have already guessed that this is no upbeat, loosie-goosie rom-com. Rather, it is a bleak look at a marriage that starts with good intentions and fades into misery. On the plus, we witness an acting clinic by two of today’s absolute best … Ryan Gosling as Dean and Michelle Williams as Cindy. Young Dean is quite the oddball romantic as he strums his ukulele and quivers “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” in a bit of foreshadowing. Young Cindy, on the other hand, is a bit more ambitious and has dreams of medical school.
The two meet by happenstance in the hallway of a nursing home when Cindy is visiting her grandmother. Immediately, there are sparks and after Cindy’s macho boyfriend proves his true rotten self to her, she becomes more enamored with Dean. When an unexpected pregnancy occurs, Dean is pretty quick to stand up for Cindy and they set off to build a life together.
Flash forward 6 years and Dean has changed very little … except his initial charm now comes across as a bit of a slacker. On the other side, Cindy just seems totally beaten down by her situation. They both cherish their precious daughter Frankie (played by newcomer Faith Wladyka) but their relationship is nowhere, gone, kaput. Even an attempted one-night getaway to a themed hotel doesn’t provide the relief they need. Instead, it’s the final straw. When Cindy repeats “I’m done” … we don’t doubt her at all.
Many other movies have dealt with failing marriages – most recently Revolutionary Road. This one lacks the anger of that one. Director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance does a tremendous job with the details and creating the personalities of these two people. Every relationship requires work, and failure can be predicted when one gives up and the other pretends all is fine. This one probably won’t save any marriages, but it is worth seeing just to watch Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in action.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you can appreciate fine acting performances and wonderfully detailed writing despite a less-than-upbeat tone OR you just enjoy a rare ukelele performance!
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: after seeing a downbeat film, you carry the weight with you for awhile.