Actor Paul Dano shows a real visual sensibility for his first feature behind the camera; I can’t wait to see him work with a story that has more meat on its bones. Dano and Zoe Kazan adapt Richard Ford’s novel set in 1960 Montana, where peripatetic Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) has moved his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and 14-year-old son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) to take a job as a golf pro. But when he loses that job, and turns to fighting brush fires to support the family, strains appear in the marriage. There’s not much here besides a teenager’s point of view on his parents drifting apart, and the moon-faced Oxenbould’s reactions have to do a lot more heavy lifting than he really seems up to handling. Mulligan, meanwhile, is terrific, embodying a pre-women’s lib homemaker with more vitality than she can express in her life, or than her husband can handle. Dano crafts sequences with unexpected perspectives—there’s a great moment involving the simple arrival and departure of a bus—that make him a talent to watch. He might work wonders with a story that’s not fundamentally literary.
Director: Paul Dano
Producer: Alex Saks, Paul Dano, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker and Zoe Kazan
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Zoe Colletti, Travis Bruyer, Darryl Cox and Mollie Milligan