Critic Reviews



Based on 41 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
[Dano] gives his actors space so that the rhythms are their own, and they hold us through the tough final scenes and bittersweet ending. This is a superb film.
In capturing the crumbling of a family and the scars left behind, Paul Dano has made a fascinatingly complex portrait of the fracturing of American ideals.
Dano crafts an unsparing portrait that’s harsh and humane in equal measure.
The script dares to go deep and confront what is going on in the hearts and minds of all three family members, but it does so articulately and without hysteria.
As a director, Dano prefers static camera setups and uncluttered frames, emphasising the mundane nature of the drama, which only allows the increasing darkness of this tale to become more upsetting.
Dano, it’s immediately clear, is a natural-born filmmaker, with an eye for elegant spare compositions that refrain from being too showy; they rarely get in the way of the story he’s telling. The tale itself is resonant and absorbing, though in a highly deliberate way.
It’s an extremely watchable movie, beautifully and even luxuriously appointed in its austere evocation of smalltown America – though maybe a little self-conscious in its emotional woundedness.
It’s a very accomplished debut, with strong performances (Mulligan, especially, is magnificent, lowering her voice to a smoky purr and letting desperation nip at the edges of her confidence) and an elegantly straightforward style that’s miles removed from the flashiness of most American indie debuts.
The film is easy to admire, but lacks the kinds of scenes necessary to truly make a emotional connection.
It is a quiet, subtle story and, as is so often the case when an actor takes their first trip behind the camera, a showcase for terrific performances.

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