This movie seems, at first glance, to have a lot going against it.
It depends almost exclusively on two actors who are neither the most
famous nor the most critically-acclaimed.
The Writer/Director has done television documentaries, but does not
credentials. And the only other
thing he wrote was more than a decade ago.
The screenplay skips back and forth between present and past,
sometimes, seemingly, in the middle of a conversation.
And it defies easy categorization.
It certainly isnít a romantic comedy.
Or an action/adventure. Or
an historical epic. Or one of
those cutesy-animated-CGI-offerings. Though
itís easier to say what it isnít than what it is, here goes:
itís the intense study of one marriage.
One relationship, husband and wife, with one little girl, whom they
both love. But itís not
really about the parenting. In
a way, that partís easy. Itís
about trying to connect with each other, and stay connected.
Now thereís the hard part.
Ryan Gosling stars as Dean, a blue-collar guy who works for a moving
and storage company. When he
helps an older gentleman into a nursing home, he carefully decorates the
room with photographs, an old soldierís uniform, and other personal
mementos: just because
thereís obviously no one else to do it.
And itís this evident kind-heartedness that attracts the young
woman named Cindy (Michelle Williams) whose mother lives across the hall at
the same nursing home.
Cindy works as an assistant at a doctorís office, when growing up
she said she wanted to be a doctor. Her
mother and her father are in an intact relationship, technically, but they
have learned, over the years, how to ignore and punish and belittle and
emotionally wound one another, and this is the only role model Cindy knows.
Sheís pretty, but she lacks self-confidence, and so dresses
somewhere between modest and shabby. She
may be underachieving, both in career choice and her selection of mates, and
maybe that has to do with self-esteem issues, but who knows, really, all the
unspoken reasons why we make the choices we do?
Dean, for his part, loves his daughter unconditionally, and is so
good with her that you just want to applaud his Daddy-ness.
But with his wife, he canít be unconditional.
He wants reciprocity. Heís
trying to re-kindle the spark that ignited their romance in the first place.
Heís trying to get past her distractedness, her weariness, and the
way she just doesnít deal with the intimacy issues that are tearing him up
inside. Yes, heís the one
with the quick temper, but as we watch how madly he loves her, and how
deeply disappointed he is in her disinterest, we begin to understand the
depth of his frustration.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both just incredible.
Their naked vulnerability, both literally and figuratively, is just
astounding to behold. Their
chemistry, both compelling and repulsive, is alternately appealing and
repugnant. They try so hard, in
their own ways, and yet they just canít figure out how to make it all
work. And that feels so real it
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace