The beginning, and the end, of a relationship is charted in this touching, honest, but at times brutal, film.
Dean (Ryan Gosling) is an amiable, deeply unambitious, young man from a `broken' home who meets Cindy (Michelle Williams), an intelligent, sensitive, young woman from an equally damaged household, whose search for affection of any kind has led her into promiscuity. They fall in love, marry, have a child, (who may or may not be Dean's), and then - what? Live happily after? Well, maybe not.
The two lead performances are superb. Ryan Gosling, (who, I must confess, I'd never seen before), is heart-breaking as the decent, loving husband who, nevertheless, has become lazy, both physically and mentally, and has retreated into the womb of family-life, without considering that his wife may need something more. Michelle Williams is equally fine, in a more difficult, unsympathetic, role, as the wife who steadily loses respect and love for a man who can no longer offer her what she needs.
It's beautifully shot: the contrast between the warm glow of their first, and only, date; and the cold, metallic, sheen of the scene in the love-hotel, marks the director, Derek Cianfrance, (another new name to me), as a definite one to watch.
Highly recommended - though with the proviso that the film does not flinch: the conclusion allows neither the protagonists nor the audience off the hook. It is most definitely not a `date' film.