After Ledger's private memorial, Williams says in a statement, "My heart is broken...I am the mother of the most tender-hearted, high-spirited, beautiful little girl who is the spitting image of her father. All that I can cling to is his presence inside her that reveals itself every day." The following week, Williams and several mourners take a plunge into the ocean to honor Ledger after his funeral in Australia. "It's exactly what Heath would have wanted," one mourner tells PEOPLE.
In a vintage Chanel Haute Couture dress, Williams makes her first red carpet appearance since Ledger's death at the Cannes Film Festival. "It actually does feel kind of special to have two films at the same time," says Williams, who is promoting Wendy and Lucy and Synecdoche, New York. "[It's] something you can look back on at the end of your life and think, 'That was a cool thing I did when I was 27.'" After the festival, she returns to Boston to resume filming on Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Williams, 29, discusses life after Heath on the cover of Vogue. "After the first year, the pain is less intense; it's less immediate," the Shutter Island star says. "But the magical thinking goes away too. And that's a whole new reckoning. But every time I really miss him and wonder where he's gone, I just look at her."
Williams teams up with Ryan Gosling in the romantic drama, Blue Valentine, which makes a splash at the Sundance Film Festival, earns both actors Golden Globe nominations and nabs Williams a Best Actress Oscar nomination. "Two of the most beautiful blonds in the business are also two of their generation’s most fascinating actors – and it's a thrill to see them working together," New York magazine gushes.
Williams returns to the silver screen as tortured sex icon Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. "The film belongs to Williams, whose tour-de-force turn conflates three Marilyns," lauds Variety. "The genius of the performance lies in the way Williams stresses the interconnectedness of these personalities." Costar Emma Watson seconds the sentiment: "I was amazed at how much I saw of Marilyn in her," she gushes. "She's the perfect Marilyn."
Williams takes home the best actress Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. "I consider myself a mother first and an actress second. I want to say thank you [to Matilda] for sending me off to this job every day with a hug and a kiss," she says of her 6-year-old daughter during her acceptance speech. A week later, the actress earns her second Best Actress Oscar nomination.
After meeting through BFF Busy Phillips, Williams, 31, steps out with How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel, 32, even attending the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of the comedic actor's film, The Five-Year Engagement, together. "It's been a few months," says a friend of the actress, who confirms the new relationship to PEOPLE. "I've never seen her happier." Following a year of dating, the pair calls it quits.
While she walks the red carpet for Oz the Great and Powerful alone, Williams is spotted with a new man over the summer, artist Dustin Yellin. The pair is photographed exiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala and attending a birthday party in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Williams makes her debut on the Great White Way in a revival of Cabaret as chanteuse Sally Bowles. "Michelle Williams? Give me a break," costume designer William Ivey Long – who also worked on the '98 version – says. "She totally reimagined Sally Bowles. Her interpretation is not to be missed."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Matt Jelonek/Getty; ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP / Getty; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin; Courtesy of Vogue; Davi Russo; The Weinstein Company; Michael Tran/FilmMagic; Splash News Online; JB Nicholas/Splash News Online; Walter McBride/WireImage