I don't know what it was about this movie but I really liked it. I don't think it was great, but it really could have been if Derek didn't go into the fifteen years later act of the movie. Loved the shot compositions and how Gosling, Cooper, Mendes, Byrne, and Liotta were acting wise in the film, signs of a good director. Another aspect that I thought was really bringing the movie to another level was the Set Design. How everyone was dressed, the tattoos on Gosling, the houses, and surrounding area were all pitch perfect. The Cinematography and Camera work was probably my favorite thing in the movie other than Gosling's acting. My favorite shot was at the beginning with the long steady-cam shot to intro Gosling and his motorcycle buds, and the shot at the end of Bradley Cooper crying in the woods and them using the trees as inherent framing. They really did some creative things when they could, I think this goes double for the sound design and score, and the plot structure's portrayal. Where and when they put the music I thought was perfect, and how they used silence to create tension with in a scene is always my favorite use of sound. It lets you bring in all the natural sounds and appreciate them as they really add to the story. On the structuring of the story, I thought it was innovative, but poorly executed. It was basically three different stories and each filled the three acts of the film. I really felt like the third act should have been re-worked or redone, even though I did like the metaphoric climax of the kid becoming just like his father to repeat the cycle of violence. On that note, the children's acting was pretty horrible and partially why I disliked the third act so much. I thought the kid who played young Jason had spots where he was spot on, but most of the time he and AJ were just bringing the movie down one line at a time. Overall, I thought this movie was going to blow me away and be in my top ten, but the trailer made me misjudge it. I think the third act really brought it down, although the first two were so good that I really liked and thought it was great and 2 times better than Blue Valentine. Derek, you are on the right path, keep it up!
This was a good movie, well shot and acted. Although, it felt that it was trying to juggle a few to many premises that then made the characters conform to situations that they would not have gotten into the first place. The stakes never felt dire enough for the characters to do what they had to in the end, but somehow maintaining the growth in their personas that they were not ready to achieve. Denial leads to destruction, Unwillingness to change leads to loss, and Arrogance leads to destruction are the premises I found that were trying to be portrayed through this movie and its characters. Some of these were elaborated on and characters did fulfill their rolls of certain changes in their lives, but when trying to cover so much a lot was left through the cracks.
Fantastic film with stellar acting performances from Dench and Coogan, the writing in this was also very well done. Good character growth, that worked well with its premise, and on top of all of that, the cinematography was great in working with the actors and their environment.