Andy Summers’s review published on Letterboxd:
Derek Cianfrance brought two of the hottest young actors working today together for a dark, melancholic trip through the disintegration of a marriage. From love's first flush to the spiteful, hate-filled ending this could make you give up on love and that special someone you think is just for you.
Ryan Gosling is the "indie" darling that flits between the mainstream and the periphery of independent cinema. He manages to be just about the best thing in every movie he's ever been in and with Michelle Williams a class act that's willing to go that extra step and immerse herself in a role, this had two stunning performances that bristled with energy.
A film that flits between the present and the past, this has married couple Dean and Cindy on the down-slope of their marriage. It's sometimes a tough watch and although you can sympathize with both character's predicament, they seem destined to destroy each others love for one another. Dean drinks and has no real ambition in life other than be a father to their daughter Frankie. Cindy on the other hand is a nurse with a future and has a growing resentment towards Dean, seemingly for everything he does. They argue, they are cruel and thoughtless with their words and although Dean still loves her, Cindy has nothing left for him. A weekend away in a shitty motel where they can in Dean's words "get drunk and make love" is the last throw of a dice that's lost it's spots. The film manages to capture every little expression of hate and anger within their relationship and as Dean tries to make the most of their time by trying to be romantic, Cindy is already looking to escape.
It is of course so different to their chance meeting and their rapid progression to marriage and parenthood. It's romantic,touching,beautiful, and their first flush of love is innocent and endearing. Their interaction is playful and funny and with Williams and Gosling both opening up like young lovers, it's very romantic. It's an emotional journey and one that I felt privileged to have gotten to watch. Cianfrance has made something so intimate that you feel as if you're intruding. The disintegration though is tense and fraught with hatred as they hurt each other irrevocably amid tears and anger. Gosling yet again kicks arse, but this has Williams on top top form. She's an actress that really can give a role her all and you can tell she poured every ounce of emotion into this part. A film of two halves molded together into an intoxicating mixture of courtship and eventual martial breakdown, this is honest film-making with an edge that makes you question why people are so hurtful.