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This is one of those movies that can best be watched without knowing anything about it in advance. That's also how I went into it. I knew nothing about the plot and I didn't even knew what actors were in it, besides Ryan Gosling, which already alone was reason enough for me to go see this movie. Was it a worthwhile experience as well? Well, yes and no really.

I admire the movie for a lot of reasons but it most definitely is not a flawless one. In some regards it's not even a great movie but only just a good movie at the very best. I kind of feel that director Derek Cianfrance tried a bit too hard to steer this movie into a certain direction and let it have a certain style to it, that's comparable to a, let's say, Paul Thomas Anderson or Nicolas Winding Refn type of approach, in terms of storytelling, atmosphere and characters. Problem is though that Derek Cianfrance just clearly ain't Paul Thomas Anderson or Nicolas Winding Refn. It never quite goes deep enough with anything, also in terms of building things up and provide enough detailed background information to its characters and give a good and deep enough look into their minds, to also provide a better understanding of their motivations. It's also therefore why I never really felt a connection to any of the movie its characters and from a dramatic and emotional perspective, this came across as a pretty bland one to me, though lots of people are apparently still really grabbed by the movie its characters, emotions and themes, so I'm definitely a minority on this.

But that also wasn't the biggest problem I had with this movie. The biggest problem was the way this its story was constructed. Without saying too much about it, this movie definitely can be provided into three very clear different parts, each putting its main focus on a different character. Problem with these three different story-arcs for me was that they never came together that very well, in a convincing or effective enough way.

While watching the first part of the movie I was thinking to myself; OK, this is good and interesting to watch and I can't wait to see where the story is going. Then the second part kicked in and suddenly I was thinking to myself; Now, what was the point in showing and doing all that stuff in the first few minutes, if something and someone else is suddenly going to be the main focus of your story. The third act of the movie sort of brings all of the stories together but like I said before, just not in a very convincing or effective enough way in my opinion. I strongly feel this movie would have been better off with a more straightforward way of storytelling and without cutting the movie up into three totally different parts. There wasn't enough stuff or a strong enough theme, running throughout the movie, to hold it together.

But there still is no way you can say this is a bad movie as well. Despite my criticism toward its story and the way of storytelling, there are also plenty of positive things to note about the story and storytelling as well. It's simply a well made movie, that doesn't always work out but you still have to admire the movie for the things it did and attempted to achieve.

It besides is a great looking movie, with some amazing shots in it (mostly just in its first act though) and some overall great cinematography by Sean Bobbitt, who previously already impressed by movies such as "Shame" and "Hunger" and no doubt is going to receive an Academy Award someday.

Of course it should come as no surprise that the acting is great as well. And the movie appears to let its actors simply act out everything, rather than letting them read of a piece of paper and tell them everything they have to do. Seems to me that director Derek Cianfrance likes to give his actors lots of space, which is something that the overall style and atmosphere of the movie truly benefits from. It gives the movie a certain sense of realism to it and helps to keep things going and interesting as well to watch. I still do wish they did something a bit more interesting and surprising with the story though, which is something this movie truly could have used. Not everything gets wrapped up neatly (I'm talking about some of the movie its side-plots and the stories concerning some of its more minor but still important characters) and it often relies on coincidences, or lets stuff just happen very easily, which all even borderlines lazy and simplistic writing at times.

I really liked watching this movie but at the same time it still really felt like a missed opportunity as well. This movie had far more potential in it really, though it still remains a perfectly good one to watch, despite of some of its flaws and weaknesses.

7/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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