Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are outstanding in director Derek Cianfrance’s grim portrait of a relationship falling apart.
Making it all the more poignant is the fact that Cianfrance flits between past and present, giving us both the valentine and the blue.
Intercut with all the hopelessness is all the hope the couple once shared; simultaneously we get the coming together and the unravelling - and at times it is painful viewing.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that this is a film with a beginning and an end, but not awfully much in the middle.
In a way, of course, it makes it all the more affecting that there has clearly been no great cataclysmic event which has so shattered the relationship. Instead, we are left to assume a slow decline in the face of all the pressures of modern living.
But even so, you can’t help feeling we need a little more than we actually get to explain the journey from A to B.
Dean (Gosling) falls instantly in love with Cindy (Williams) and clearly still dotes on her, but has become irritating and stultifyingly unambitious; Cindy meanwhile has gone from fragile to frigid, from appealingly vulnerable to cold and seemingly unfeeling.
To switch repeatedly between the two extremes as the relationship alternately blossoms and collapses is heartbreaking and haunting.
Somehow you’re left with the feeling that you haven’t quite been given the full picture, but certainly this is a film which stays with you - testament to the emotional punch that it packs.