Around 100 minutes into Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" there is a long, slow pan across some of New York City's landscape which is followed by an unbroken shot of Lisa (played by Anna Paquin) walking through its indifferent crowds. The two shots run for several minutes and invite reflection as they breathe, complementing and solidifying the tone set in the opening of the film in which people move through the city in motion, set to Nico Muhly's evocative score.
There is an ache for connection and understanding at the heart of Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" which Anna Paquin brings to the screen with a vulnerability and depth not even hinted at during her 25 season slum as Sookie Stackhouse in "True Blood". Her incredible performance brings to mind Gena Rowlands when she worked with John Cassavetes. "Margaret" is not Cinéma vérité by any means - it is positively filmic. Yet, like a Cassavetes film, it invites the audience to participate in the life of its characters by showing them doing and talking about things in scene after scene which are not necessarily integral to its central or overarching narrative. These scenes serve to build a multidimensional portrait of its characters which, again, are allowed the space to breathe and develop.
There is music in the film but not everywhere, and when it's present it serves a purpose and creates a synergy with the cinematography which is rarely experienced in modern cinema.
It is unclear to this reviewer why this film, shot in 2005, was not released until 2011. Seen in its original theatrically released form (150 minutes), "Margaret" is an overwhelming experience, a film filled with beautiful, quiet moments and a near-magnificent character study. Smaller character parts as played Matt Damon, Jean Reno, Allison Janney and Mark Ruffalo are reminders of these actors talents as they fill their respective parts with nuance and complexity despite minimal screen time.
Reportedly, the director's preferred cut is three hours long. I haven't seen it, but I can say right here that the 150 minute cut is just incredible and works as a complete narrative, an exploration of the human condition and a character study in and of itself.