Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal play a couple on the rocks in Paul Dano’s directorial debut, an elegant 1950s-set melodrama.

Dir Paul Dano
Prod Alex Saks, Paul Dano, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker
Scr Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
With Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould
UK Distribution Kaleidoscope Entertainment

When teenager Joe (Ed Oxenbould) and his parents move to suburban Montana, a fresh start seems on the cards. But cracks soon show, with volatile father Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) needing to search further afield for work. This leaves Joe and his relentlessly chipper mother Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) alone, with Jeanette clinging onto the façade of happiness by her fingernails. Mulligan gives an astounding performance as a woman trapped by her own expectations of life and the limited options she has to fulfil them, while Oxenbould shines as the witness to and victim of her unravelling. From a screenplay co-written by Zoe Kazan, based on Richard Ford’s titular novel, Paul Dano has crafted an absorbing directorial debut. It’s a handsomely mounted and emotionally powerful drama.

Kate Taylor