Dean Pereira and Cindy Heller Pereira are a young, working class married couple – Dean currently working as a painter, and Cindy working as a nurse in a medical clinic – with a young daughter named Frankie. Despite their relatively tender ages, they are both ravaged by the life they’ve eked out together and by the experiences they’ve had leading into their marriage. Dean, a high school drop out, comes from a broken home, where he never really had a mother figure. He never saw himself getting married or having a family despite falling in love at first sight with Cindy. He doesn’t have any professional ambition beyond his current work – which he enjoys since he feels he can knock off a beer at 8 o’clock in the morning without it affecting his work – although Cindy believes he has so much more potential in life. Cindy also comes from a dysfunctional family, with her own mother and father not setting an example of a harmonious married or family life. One of her previous serious …
User Reviews: No matter what else is yet to be released, you will not see two better performances this year than Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone in anything coming close. In the defensive, aggressive way he turns every line of dialogue around on the speaker as a hidden affront to his insecurities, Gosling reminded me of no less than De Niro in Raging Bull as the older Dean. Playing the younger version, he channels the charm, romanticism, and recklessness of a 1960s Paul Newman.
Williams, who has emerged as the best American actress 30 and under, pulls off a performance that recalls Gena Rowlands’ work with Cassavettes. Which is not to say either is an imitation, they aren’t "doing method" or aping the authenticity of previous greats. They’re 100% the real deal, so good you can only compare them to the best, and they fully embody these characters in every frame. They made me believe, they made me care, they broke my heart.
The story is a familiar one because it’s the most common source of drama in life and art but avoids cliché and instead handles the subject with uncommon insight and grace. The lack of context scene-to-scene keeps the audience engaged and on their feet, filling in the intentional holes with their own experience and lending the film a universal relatability. In good times and bad, we can recognize our own triumphs and failures in love. It captures the joyous highs and devastating lows of relationships better than anything I can recall. Gosling singing while Williams tap dances, what she reveals to Gosling on the bridge and how he reacts, the scene in the doctor’s office towards the end… they achieve that sense of cinematic transcendence so rare these days. They simply don’t craft scenes like this or give actors roles this fully realized in Hollywood anymore.
It’s clear this was a labor of love for all involved and it paid off in spades. This is the best American film I’ve seen this year.