Blue Valentine Reviews
"Ryan Gosling's so sweet... Michelle Williams is so lucky...," while another will make you rethink your future plans about getting married. It's not for the soft of heart, I admit, and it's raw depiction of romance is more similar to 500 Days of Summer and Allesandra de Rosi's indie flick "#12" than it is to the Notebook. While escapism is good for stress, too much can get tiresome and raise some high expectations with your partner. If you like an honest love story for a change, try it out. Otherwise, just stick with KDrama and formula rom-coms.
Plot: Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a young, working class couple who finds themselves at a testing juncture in their marriage. Cindy has ambitions and looking for more from life while Dean has remained the same person and shows little chance of changing. This puts a lot of pressure on their relationship as resentment and bitterness begin to appear and the dissolution of their marriage becomes an inevitability.
Apparently borrowing from the Tom Waits album of the same name, Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine is a perfectly fitting title. It's a contradiction in terms of how something can be so sweet and beautiful yet also so cruel and depressing. That is the tone and exploration of Cianfrance's tragic love story. As we are introduced to the lives of Dean and Cindy we witness their courtship and their marriage while it's juxtaposed with their breakup. The earlier moments of their relationship is filled with happiness, hope and genuine love and affection while the latter times are so deeply painful and emotionally devastating. The real stroke of genius here, though, is in Cianfrance's decision to avoid a linear structure. He intercuts with opposing time-frames which allows him to dissect the whole meat and bones of these two characters' lives together with a detailed analysis of events and behaviours. As a result of the non-linear approach we, as viewers, are taken on a rollercoaster of emotions and given a fly-on-the-wall experience of this affair that's told with an unflinching realism.
Alongside co-writer's Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne, Cianfrance achieves a meticulous balance to the film. It could have been so easy to side with one character or the other but as we see these people (warts and all) we come to understand that neither one of them is solely to blame for the breakdown of their relationship. I found myself taking it from a male perspective and seeing Cindy as cold, distant and unloving but then I could see it from her perspective and how Dean refused to grow or challenge himself. As Cindy wants more for her life and career, Dean is content with simply being a husband and father. Neither one is in the wrong but, unfortunately, they become incompatible due to their individual wants and differing needs.
In order for it all to come together, though, it demands commited performances. And that's exactly what we get from Gosling and Williams. The verisimilitude of this relationship is owed to the magnificent work that two leads put into it. In order to achieve the requisite authenticity, Gosling and Williams improvised a lot of their lines and even rented an apartment together for a month where they shared the stresses of daily life by living within the same meagre budget of their characters, going shopping, cooking meals, sharing the same bathroom and exploring different ways of picking fights with each other. Their commitment and approach to the roles really pays off and they are entirely convincing in their fluctuating ranges of emotion. Williams was rightly afforded an Oscar nomination for her work (losing out to Natalie Portman for Black Swan) but Gosling was disgracefully overlooked. This is one of those films where the performances are inseparable and it remains some of the very finest work both Williams and Gosling have delivered.
A very bleak but tender anatomy of a relationship that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Boasting extraordinary performances from the leads, it's so sobering and realistically depicted that it's uncomfortable to watch. Never have I seen a relationship on screen that's depicted with such brutal honesty with a simple viewing being enough to save some couples a fortune in relationship counselling. It may not be the best film for a romantic evening with your other half but it's the best film about the challenges that a long term relationship brings. Outstanding work by all involved.
'Blue Valentine' may label itself as a love story, and whilst it technically is, don't go in expecting a sweet romance. Whilst the movie does suffer in terms of how the characters, in particular that of Cindy, keep changing their attitude towards people and the decisions they make, the performances are very good, as is the dialogue and direction. Certainly worth checking out.