Michelle Williams has come a long way since her portrayal of the young and impressionable Jen Lindley on Dawson’s Creek. The teen drama would be her breakout role, but it was after her tearful goodbye on the smash hit show that we all hold close to our hearts (go on, admit it!) that she became a household name. Williams has accomplished the near-impossible – making the successful transition from a television series regular to a four-time Academy Award nominated actress through roles in My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain, and now Manchester by the Sea.
To celebrate the release of Manchester by the Sea on digital download from May 8th and on DVD and Blu-ray from May 15th, we take a look at some of the key roles that made Michelle Williams one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Arguably one of the most important films to come out in the 21st century, this film was career defining for many of those involved. Tackling some of the most sensitive issues in American society, it follows two cowboys who embark on a relationship that would change the course of their lives. Starring the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis and Jack, we see a friendship turn into a passionate romance, despite the very different life that surrounds them. Michelle Williams plays Alma, the wife of Ledger’s rugged ranch handler, stealing the screen repeatedly as she deals with the unfolding situation as Ennis and Jack reunite after years of separation. Williams does a fantastic job of creating empathy for Alma and the situation she finds herself in, all while routing for the two leads to be able to act on their true feelings for each other.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Before Ryan Gosling was singing in the city of stars with Emma Stone, he co-starred in this beautiful indie romance with Michelle Williams. Dean and Cindy are a young married couple who deal with many problems plaguing their marriage over the span of a decade. While it is full of cute romance, the film does not hide from the contemporary issues that many relationships go through, giving a ‘before and after’ look at married life. While Cindy is flourishing as a nurse at a medical clinic, Dean is still stuck in his adolescent mindset, unable to accept his wife’s success. With a daughter to think about, they struggle to find a balance in their relationship. When they embark on an overnight trip without her, they begin to figure out their future and their relationship. Williams captures the conflict that grows within her brilliantly, stuck between the love for her husband and the yearning for a better life.
Shutter Island (2010)
One great way to become one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood is to star in a Martin Scorsese directed action thriller that grossed over $200 million in the box office. In 2010 Michelle Williams did just that alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island. Set in 1954, the film follows the mysterious disappearance of a patient in a mental hospital whom DiCaprio’s Teddy Daniels investigates. Falling to the perils of the creepy mental institution and those who run it, he becomes trapped on the island and is led to question his own sanity through flashbacks to his past where Williams is featured heavily. To give away more than that would be to do the incredible revelations that the film offers a disservice, but as you probably guessed, Michelle plays the role perfectly; clouding her character in mystery throughout.
My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Few can pull off portraying a cultural icon with such depth and conviction – just ask Naomi Watts! Not only did Michelle Williams give a stellar performance as the renowned Marilyn Monroe, but she also gave one of the best performances of her career. Set in 1956 England, Marilyn Monroe is cast in an upcoming film by top a British director. Colin Clark, a young and aspiring film student, is hired as an assistant on the film but his role ends up being much greater as he develops a relationship with the Hollywood starlet. Despite the many warnings of the grim future a relationship with Monroe would be, Clark becomes even more smitten by her. As the film progresses, Williams gets you attached to Monroe, and what would become of this budding romance is what makes this film a true testament to the tragic life of Monroe.
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Featuring an all-star cast which includes Michelle Williams, James Franco, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis, this Disney blockbuster explores the origins of a fantasy story the world has known since 1939. Finding himself in the Land of Oz after a windstorm hits Kansas, Oscar Diggs is faced with a long-standing prophecy that he will be the wizard to free the lands from the reign of the Wicked Witch. Joined by Glinda (Williams), Oscar is on a quest to restore peace to the Land of Oz, going up against some of the most powerful witches in the Emerald City. Full of badass women and special effects, this film may be a little more playful than many of Williams’ roles, but that doesn’t mean she fails to steal the show once again.
Certain Women (2016)
Marking the second collaboration between director Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams after her 2008 debut Wendy and Lucy, fans of this indie film will now be hoping for a third. This remarkable and intense film documents the lives of three women in a small Montana town. Williams plays Gina, a woman searching for a new house with her husband as their marriage is crumbling. The film also stars Kristen Stewart as a young lawyer who strikes up a relationship with a ranch hand, and Laura Dern as an attorney who has to diffuse her client as a hostage situation occurs. Williams succeeds in her attempt to portray the delicate intricacies of Gina, helping cast light on the daily struggles women continue to face in modern America.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
If ever there was a ‘show stealing’ Michelle Williams performance it would be this one (not discounting her Oscar-winning co-star). When Lee Chandler (Affleck) is forced to move back to his home town of Manchester after the unexpected death of his brother to take guardianship of his nephew (Lucas Hedges), he is faced with painful memories from the life he once led. Coming face to face with his estranged ex-wife (Williams) and his gloomy past, he must find a way to cope for the sake of his grieving nephew. A film that has garnered staggering critical acclaim and earned a host of Academy and BAFTA awards, Michelle Williams once again proves herself as an actress comfortable in a film of the calibre; displaying her versatility and range, and cementing her position as one of the best actresses in Hollywood right now.