Derek Cianfrance’s searing portrait of the beginning and end of a relationship cemented Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams’ star status.
Cianfrance’s feature directorial debut cemented the reputations of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who had already proven themselves skilled actors in, respectively, Brokeback Mountain and The Believer. They play Cindy and Dean, whose relationship Cianfrance charts by shifting back and forth in time. By playing with chronology, the film focuses on specific moments in the couple’s history, rather than the arc that finds them drawn to each other, building a life together and attempting to paper over the fissures that point towards the implosion of their relationship. In doing so, Cianfrance relies heavily on the skills of his actors to convey the weight of their love, frustration, passion and anger. And both deliver. Williams and Gosling have rarely faltered in their careers, but this film still stands as a stunning achievement.