However, despite its slowness, the picture kept me involved from beginning to end, and the long runtime with its constant moving backwards did not affect my attention. The elaboration of grief is a long and slow process, and this picture reflects this process as it is in real life: unfortunately, our attention span as viewers, readers and often as human beings is often too short, but pictures like this one can remind us that attention and elaboration require time and slowness.
Well deserved Oscar for Casey Affleck, who managed to exploit every single step of grief with a heartfelt and authentic interpretation, and reached a deep chemistry with the boy playing his nephew. Michelle Williams also offered a strong performance although in a minor role. The screenplay was effective, since it was able to combine the seriousness of the topic with some slightly humorous tone, but never forgetting the highly and successfully committed aim of the narration.
This is exactly what lacks in this picture: no thrills, predictable events, no suspense, dull characters, all packaged in a badly made product. The slow pace (sometimes, and not that originally interrupted by sudden flashbacks), the inconsistent performances (moreover made more annoying by the use of a trashy language), the boring scenes (among which the explicit sex scenes stand out as really disturbing), do not help the picture arise above the level of a man-hating TV drama, without any consistency and on the whole disappointing.
Besides good interpreters, what really reigns in the picture is the wise and strongly effective use of light, from the wonderful amber and golden light of the opening scene on the edge of a swimming pool, to the awesome and never boring shooting of the Manhattan skyline from the bay, or from Bow bridge in central park, where New York appears as an embroidery of light and colour, the umpteenth declaration of love by Allen, and for the first time the necessary setting for that pure and naif vision of love. The picture is indeed a pleasure for the eye, a melancholic but still delightful evocation of old times ways of living and loving.
The story develops with a steady and quick pace, but is also intertwined by dreamy moments, which soften the overall realistic attitude of the movie. The incisive soundtrack is also wisely chosen to give more value to some emotionally intense moments or to enliven the atmosphere. The cast does a great job, Jake Gyllenhall truly inhabits his difficult and at times incomprehensible character, and is worthily supported by a never disappointing Naomi Watts, and the little boy offers a good performance, too.
On the whole an enjoyable and also thought provoking picture, which leaves much to think about what could lie beneath the ruins if we had the courage to deconstruct the more or less frail scaffold of our existence.
The high-definition close-up shots of people's faces, courageously and honestly opening their soul to the viewer, creates a strong empathy and a sense of connection transcending all borders: we all feel the same, hurt the same, think the same. I found some interviews really touching, although never pathetic or overly affectionate, simply because real and human.
The short intimate accounts of personal lives are spaced with visually stunning slow-motion aerial shots of impressive natural and human landscapes, and the music also complements the high emotional value of the picture, which I would highly recommend to see.