Blue Valentine (2010)

February 21, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

We all want the fantasy. There aren’t many films that examine the death of love in a relationship, mostly because it’s a touchy subject and it’s difficult to sell, but to connect with the inevitability of how life plays out is essential. Blue Valentine covers the relationship of Dean and Cindy, running two important stories side by side: how they fell in love and how they fell out of it. Derek Cianfrance provides intimate direction, and Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams give scorchingly honest performances that are thoroughly absorbing.

Cianfrance directs this film with a comforting eye, and adds just the right amount of flourishes to heighten the interaction of the two main characters. Appropriate close-ups are used to capture the subtleties and mannerisms of the fully-realized main characters, enhancing their already brilliant performances. For example, the camera closes in on Dean shrugging off Cindy’s hand, denying her comfort. Another fantastic aspect of the direction is the way the film was shot with two story-lines interweaving, as was done in the Godfather part II. The way the audience is taken back and forth, juxtaposing falling in love and falling apart, is poetry on celluloid.

Michelle Williams, as Cindy, and Ryan Gosling, as Dean, both give arguably the best performances of their respective careers. Williams is spot on as Cindy, the overworked mother that stores her concerns until they rip through her skin, as she gives a softly powerful performance. Gosling completely makes Dean someone that’s hard to forget; a goofy, but very caring father that is comfortable with being unimpressive to society. As the younger couple, they both exude a belief in that universal definition of an ideal love that doesn’t die. Williams and Gosling have an impressive chemistry with each other, as if they actually have been through the heaven and hell of love.

This film quietly absorbs its viewers with its complete honesty about relationships and its sobering dissection of what love is capable of being. Everything that makes you love a person will eventually make you hate them, as is honestly depicted with Cindy and Dean. They grow fond of each other, and they grow tired of each other, as they mold these expectations for one another that will never be filled. It also touches upon the positive side of love. This ideal love that everybody wants can be attained, but it can’t be forever. The moment Cindy and Dean click and hit their prime with each other will never be fully reached again; yes, there are instances of that initial click, but for many that’s not enough.

Overall, the film is essential because of the way it breaks down a relationship. Blue Valentine is achingly realistic, and allows its audience to observe the duality of love.

Potential Drawbacks:

Some viewers might stay away from this film because it deals with heavy material that some people have enough of already in their own lives. The material is definitely depressing and it’s definitely not a feel-good film in the traditional sense.

In addition, nothing is spelled out and it moves at a comfortable pace. If you’re not in the mood for a drama on relationships, maybe come back to it at the right time.

Film Recommendations:

Revolutionary Road
Annie Hall
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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