Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by Allan Brown0
Blue Valentine Review
Movie Review: Blue Valentine (2010)
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, John Doman
Plot: A retrospective look at a young couple’s life together chronicling the evolution of their relationship.
The age old subject of love is one of the most popularly explored themes in film since the beginning of moving pictures themselves. Hollywood’s exploration of the subject has often been to paint in broad strokes; avoiding delving any deeper than the superficial and too keep the issues simple, black and white, avoiding any grey areas. What the finished article often represents is a fluffy fairy tale melodrama of: boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl which of course all ends brilliantly and on a high note.
As we all know, this exhausted, obvious and predictable formula although hugely popular with the casual audience somewhat illustrates young love in a faux packaged glossy Hollywood kind of way, which is I guess the point.
What these films represent are a two and a half hour undemanding escape that push aside the trappings of reality and realism to offer the audience an uplifting and positive journey on what is in reality one of the deepest and most complex of human emotions.
In contrast Blue Valentinealthough a contemporary romantic drama is one of the most powerful, brutally honest and realistic portrayals of the many hardships modern day marriages go through. The film flows through the various stages of a couple’s relationship, from the blissfully romantic inception all the way to the bitter and eventual decay. The film manages to capture and encompass the vast understanding of human emotion that is artfully illustrated and dealt with a subtle genius.
Director ‘Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines – Review)’offers us what is essentially a two day snapshot of the lives of Dean and Cindy (Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams) a young married couple whose increasingly strained relationship through years of the mundane everyday lifestyle has left the marriage loveless and hollow, devoid of any spark or feeling. This is crosscut using flashbacks that show us an incredibly sweet and passionate young couple madly in love with each other from their initial meet to the birth of their daughter.
This non-linear method of storytelling gives the audience early insight of how the movie ultimately ends, so even these happier scenes from early in the couples life have a bittersweet tinge of inevitability. This method of crosscutting footage in the timeline works well throughout the movie and skillfully illustrates the subtle contrasts in tone from the then to now, highlighting the increasing void in Dean and Cindy’s relationship and ultimately their lives.
Blue Valentine is awash with metaphors, nods to stereotype and frequently asks the audience to question their own views on the concept of, love at first sight and the idea of love as a fleeting emotion. Is it something that can disappear as quickly as it arrived?
Dean (Ryan Gosling) working as a removal man catches his first glimpse of Cindy (Michelle Williams) as she visits her Grandma at a retirement home. The situation that plays out is a classic nod to the ‘boy-meets- girl’ romances of Hollywood previously mentioned. Their relationship begins with the speed of any young romance and is filled with passion and wonderment along with the occasional cute embrace shared in the warm light of a street lamp.
Another touching metaphor or trigger point for the audience who watching retrospectively see Dean as he sings to Cindy a song entitled “You Always Hurt The Ones You Love” this is one of the most calculated moments that is both equally beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
As the story progresses we see Dean meeting Cindy’s parents (who don’t approve), Cindy becoming pregnant and the subsequent rash wedding as well as the couples decision to start a family and a life together. These events are told entirely through flashback and we witness the milestone chain of events and climax before the present day fall and decay of their relationship.
They have reached the point at which the attractions of the younger romance no longer exist. Cindy who is sick of Dean’s insistent smothering, drinking and underachieving lifestyle proclaims in a climatic outburst towards the films conclusion exclaiming “I feel nothing for you anymore!”
Both Cindy and Dean’s perspectives on marriage differ greatly, Dean sees Cindy and his family as the reason to work, and that marriage is the final station, while Cindy see’s it more as a journey than a destination. These conflicting attitudes and viewpoints suggest the foundation of their marriage simply wasn’t strong enough to last. The film refuses to point fingers or blame anyone for the fall of the relationship and instead suggests people just evolve, feelings change and sometimes we just reach a point where love is simply lost. With that said, ‘Blue Valentine’ offers as much beauty as it does tragedy encapsulating a raw and emotionally complex precautionary tale of young love.
Gosling and Williams'(who was subsequently nominated for an Oscar in her role) offer powerful yet subtle performances as the leads. They show a great restrain from playing the roles of their respective characters as melodrama or cutesie. As a result the relationship and emotions portrayed feel honest and real and they’re screen time together is always captivating. The expertly written script and inept direction of ‘Derek Cianfrance’ who aims for utter realism here has produced a fresh and genuine take on the genre that is reflective, mature and utterly captivating.
Summary: A beautifully realised master class in acting and film making that offers a fresh, unflinching and painfully honest study into a young couple’s life together.