All Good Things greatest asset is a stylistic mood, developing a sense of growing dread while making each on screen appearance of Ryan Gosling completely unnerving. That’s a testament to the performance, Gosling slowly unraveling as he recounts three decades of David Marks (all names changed from the actual events). But, it’s also the lighting, the quiet, and the shadows, completely convincing the audience of upcoming tragic events and mysterious disappearances.
Tough roles are abound here, the brilliant Frank Langella playing Marks’ father, utterly contemptible from the opening frames. He’s big New York business, and after a rough childhood, David wants nothing to do with his father. Kirsten Dunst gets pulled into the middle of it when she marries David, the latter spiraling slowly out of control as his total lockdown on his emotions makes him increasingly unpredictable.
He’s a strange, weird, withdrawn man, loaded with ambition one moment, and the next leaving it all. It’s complex, the center of what makes the story itself intriguing, David looking for some type of acknowledgment from his uncaring, cold father. When that doesn’t come, he takes his frustrations out elsewhere, on his wife, the dog, or even on an old man who comes to rely on him.
All Good Things can be sluggishly paced, at times missing its key to move on. The narrative framing is such that it has the ability to keep those brooding shots of David in the shadows looking on at his wife, while trimming the increasingly repetitious awkward social encounters. Sadly, the latter doesn’t happen. Split up between it all is a trial, Gosling draped with effective, convincing make-up as lawyers bombard him with questions. It intelligently keeps a time frame while filling in any gaps in the story without the need for additional exposition between characters.
Bottled up emotions never wear thin, but keep a steady presentation of spectacular visual markers flowing throughout the film. Of course, none of it would work were it not for an interesting lead character, David nearly impossible to truly understand, yet the film’s build-up of emotion is at least enough to understand why he is what he is. All Good Things doesn’t paint him as a killer; he’s sympathetic. The film doesn’t want glory, just to explain with some insane mood swings.
All Good Things was filmed on 16mm, the stocks carrying a wavering grain structure which at times causes trouble for this AVC encode from Magnolia. It’s always tough to completely resolve such a grain structure, and this one toughs it out enough to keep visible artifacting to a minimum. Those trouble spots are fairly minor.
There is a scattering of other issues here too, namely some definite smoothing and a hint of sharpening which leads to visible halos. The latter comes into play at 1:07:52 around Langella, that whole scene a bit of a mystery. Faces look out of focus while digital sharpening has been applied to enhance the suits and backdrop.
Generally, this one can resolve the best of detail without any needless tinkering, the exteriors of various homes producing wonderful definition. Close-ups, speaking in general terms, are richly textured, pleasing to the eye and natural. Because of the film stock, shadow detail will suffer throughout, and there’s not much that can be done. Black levels suffer from a few lapses, the worst of it coming early at 7:58 or so during a party. Shadow detail doesn’t make it out of there either.
Colors are subdued, cool, and settling into a blueish haze. Flesh tones carry some color, at least enough that everyone doesn’t appear to look like a cadaver. The film opens on a series of home movies that contain the brightest, richest color in the movie making the stylistic switch obvious, and the film naturally uninviting. It’s gunning for total immersion in terms of mood.
There’s not much too All Good Things’ DTS-HD audio mix, mostly because this one prides itself on silence. At one point, David even tries playing a mute. The score is the most vibrant, richest thing here, blending the surrounds and fronts flawlessly. It rarely requires any input from the low-end, but produces exquisite highs rich with fidelity.
Other elements work too of course, from massive rain storms to various parties that fill the soundfield with chatter, clanging glasses, and ambient music. Dialogue is well rendered and balanced. When David and Katie move into their new place, there’s a nicely defined echo that is subtle while still easily appreciated.
You’ll get two commentaries here, the first with director Andrew Jarecki joined by co-writers Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling. Jarecki joins the second as well with Robert Durst, the man this story is based on. Four deleted scenes are presented in abysmal quality for a bit over five minutes. Truth in Fiction details the actual story and how it was translated to the screen, a fine half hour making-of. Back in Time details the research into the case done for the film, an interesting 23-minutes. Wrinkle in Time is a time lapse of Gosling’s make-up application, followed by Beneath the Surface, an hour long interview with the director. Trailers and BD-Live remain.