Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
At the Movies:
I thought it was a gritty New York story and actually really lost myself in the characters.
If Phoenix does carry through on his threat to leave acting behind for good, he could hardly ask for a more tastefully executed, sweetly melancholy swan song.
If Two Lovers winds up being Phoenix's last movie, at least it offers posterity incontrovertible proof that, once, he was a contender.
New York Times:
Though it is set in the present, Two Lovers takes place in what often feels like an earlier incarnation of New York.
New York Magazine/Vulture:
Although Paltrow is radiant (and she nails the character's ditzy sense of entitlement), it's Phoenix's movie. He is, once again, stupendous, and stupendous in a way he has never been before.
J. R. Jones,
Joaquin Phoenix and writer-director James Gray team up again for something on a smaller scale, and though the story is no less familiar the results are frequently affecting.
The remarkable intimacy Gray finds with his cast lifts the movie up as its quiet story unfolds, pulling us in and making the world smaller until nothing matters but these three.
The particulars of the story, Gray's moody compositions and feel for the neighborhood, and especially the performances rescue Two Lovers from the obvious.
What elevates Two Lovers beyond the mundane is the strength of the performances.
It's one of the few movies I've seen recently that improves on a second viewing, in part because Phoenix does such remarkably subtle work.
Los Angeles Times:
Themes of loneliness, alienation and unrequited love are not new, but there is always that sense of the unexpected in Phoenix that keeps you curious.
[A] compact, compassionate portrait of a man struggling to define himself and his own understanding of happiness.
It's the sort of brooding turn that makes us mourn Phoenix's threatened retreat from acting.
Instead of opting for a big dramatic setting he stays small, finding the tender truth within what could have seemed a cliche.
You have to watch it with different brain muscles than you're used to using, because the film has no frills or hooks, no visible 'arcs,' nothing to grab on to but the fragile humanity of the people on screen.
Dallas Morning News:
While Gray shares Leonard's love of photographing Brighton Beach street life and storefronts, and does so with great sensitivity and skill, this is such a worn-out cinematic setting that it has the effect of someone who's forever showing you baby photos.
An uncannily perceptive acknowledgment of settling -- Paltrow with Phoenix, and Phoenix with Shaw -- with a happy kiss at the end that leaves us chilled.
However moody, Two Lovers didn't strike me as a downer, for the simple reason that it wells with sights and sounds that are guaranteed to lift, not sink, the spirits.
New York Daily News:
Director James Gray is best known for hard-edged dramas like Little Odessa, so it's surprising to find he has such a well-developed romantic side.
New York Post:
A dismal cine-splotch about depressed losers in outer Brooklyn by writer-director James Gray.
New York Observer:
Two Lovers has roots in pure soap opera, but its gentle pacing and delicate performances lift it blithely above the dangers of parody as it tells the story of two tortured misfits groping in the dark for human contact.
New York Observer:
The acting is all first-rate, and Mr. Gray and his cinematographer, Joaquin Baca-Asay, have captured their locale in its most somber stages, as if to emphasize the essential sadness of the two love stories, and the chill they induce in the viewer.
Despite its essential implausibility, Two Lovers lingers in your consciousness -- or loiters there, like Leonard standing on the street corner.
It may be a little too heavy to represent an ideal date movie, but it's an honest, adult romance that deserves recognition for not pandering to those on a quest for 90 minutes of escapism.
A film of unusual perception, played at perfect pitch by Phoenix, Shaw, Paltrow and the other actors. It is calm and mature. It understands these characters. It doesn't juggle them for melodrama, but looks inside.
An intense emotional drama, beautifully photographed and profoundly ambiguous, suspended somewhere between realism and psychosexual allegory.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Very little is explicit. The audience is left to infer much from spotty information, and yet a full and specific picture emerges. We are never in doubt of the truth of the characters and the absolute solidity of the world being depicted.
The movie's occasionally risible sincerity is what sets the flawed but riveting Two Lovers apart from other recent films about young New Yorkers in love.
Globe and Mail:
Phoenix plays that schism -- the damaged soul in a hunky body -- to perfection, so well that we overlook the logical chasm at the centre of the tale.
Gray guides his strong cast to a resolution that is both surprising and entirely realistic.
Finally, the year's first serious American movie.
Gray's direction lovingly toys with images of containment and release, effectively playing out the drama in visual terms - but we never really feel it.
An involving, gently paced and well-cast drama about a tortured soul and his efforts at redemption.
An involving, ultimately touching romantic drama about a young man's struggle deciding between the two women in his life.
The performers are attractive if unconvincing. The auteur's worldview is unappealing yet authentically his.