Derek Cianfrance’s first feature is about a boyish ex-con (Ryan Gosling) who lacks ambition. His more focused wife (Michelle Williams), a nurse, tires of his limitations as drink, temper, dutiful sex, and parenting corrode the remains of romance. Williams is excellent, Gosling ragged. In a way that recalls John Cassavetes’s films, there are heartfelt truths, and the frank sex is hardly provoking. In 1970, such decline-of-love material was treated with a more adult grip in Irvin Kershner’s Loving. (2011) — David Elliott
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