In Blue Valentine all the ingredients are there for a memorable film - terrific acting from the two main characters, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams; some very arty and imaginative camera work; a story that is packed with emotional punch... and yet, while good, this film fails to be great, never quite reaching the emotional punch that the very well filmed ending aimed for.
Without revealing anything out of the ordinary, I'll mention that the film starts out with a scene in present day involving the loss of the family dog (where you witness how easily Gosling interacts with his daughter, and how tension lies just beneath the surface between he and Williams). From there the story moves slowly forward, while backtracking to fill in the blanks concerning who these two are, and what they were. I was amazed how Gosling in particular pulled off the difference in age, with glasses and receding hairline.
There are some background scenes that I found superfluous - especially those concerning William's old high school boyfriend, and I found the big deal scene at the motel, while raw, ultimately falling short of "Leaving Lost Vegas" greatness. On a side note, I've never understood the compulsion of wanting to "get wild", meaning go to a hotel, get drunk, and then have sex. I get the hotel and sex thing, but, if you're trying to reconnect with your mate, why do you have to get drunk to do it? To me that would just get in the way of any true emotion and connection... but what do I know?
In the end, you have a familiar tale concerning falling out of love. The film tries to examine how this can happen, and while not a revelation, does an adequate job of showing how, after time, things become rote to the point where you don't really hear what the other person is saying, and subsequently are put off by bullet point words, instead of trying to understand or appreciate the emotional content of what's behind the words. As Williams says towards the film's end, "blah, blah, blah", indicating that she "thinks" she's heard it all before. Odd that I found her character the "cold" one, while Gosling came across as much more straightforward, if perhaps needy. As he observes to a friend early in the film, "men are the ones more into true love than a woman. A guy thinks he'll never find "the one", and then wham, that's it, she's the one, while a woman will get to a certain point and then "settle". You know, it's like she's weighing her options... he's got a decent job and he's not bad looking." The film makes it clear that Gosling truly loves his family, though you're not quite sure about Williams - which makes that earlier proclamation an insightful one. Perhaps if I felt that Williams loved Gosling as much as he obviously loves her, the film would have had more impact for me; though I will admit that the very last scene still brought a tear to my eye; yet probably not for the reason intended by the script.
If I could I'd rate this a 75... just for the record.