The best of it plays like an acting exercise that serves the intimate, often bruising relationship at the core. Gosling seems to be pulling from an impressive bag of performance tricks, Williams from a deeper well, drawn from life.
As the film, which Derek Cianfrance directed and co-wrote, makes its way to the end of its second hour, it becomes an acutely stylized, slow-motion marital accident. You either want to call AAA or roll your eyes.
Cianfrance's film is frustratingly surface-bound in ways that reflect, if not out-and-out misogyny, then at least a lack of interest in imbuing his female character with the rich interior life and complicated morality he gives his male lead.
The scenes cut so close to the emotional bone that you can understand why they might cause a panic amongst MPAA boardmembers, although of course, it's nothing to be afraid of: just the realism of love in its varied forms.