Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins
Release Date: January 7, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: A young blue-collar couple (Gosling, Williams) spend a night in a sleazy motel in a final attempt to save their marriage.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Though the overall quality of the movie transcends age or immediate taste, Blue Valentine is bound to have its most undying relationship with the generation of hip folk who always feature at least one Pitchfork.com championed musical artist whenever they make mix CDs. Oh, and fans of Ryan Gosling who have been conditioned to see him as more than just a Notebook-like romantic.
EXPECTATIONS: Gosling and Williams have proven numerous times that their skill reaches beyond their heartthrob-y roots. Around the time this film hit the festival circuit, it created controversy with a shocking NC-17 rating. It was certainly curious to see what hype the film would live up to, and to whether it would be a worthy awards contender considering its December/January release.
Ryan Gosling as Dean: A more raspy version of the Gosling than we’re accustomed to, Dean is a heavy romantic whose sensitive side is still visible through his manly beer-drinking and cigarette smoking appearance. He embodies the bits of cynicism spoken throughout Blue Valentine, as he learns that love is not guaranteed, and can lead to uncertain, unforgivable inner destruction.
Michelle Williams as Cindy: She’s trapped with her pent up sorrow, and has reached the point of irreplaceable numbness. It’s as if the movie doesn’t side with Cindy, regardless of the joy it has of presenting her as a happy spirit. This makes her all the more generally lamentable to the audience.
TALKING: Adding to their on-screen the chemistry, all of the dialogue spoken by Gosling and Williams is legitimate, and is delivered with the most natural beats possible. As an admitted fan of the wonder of movies, Dean even has a knack to try to make his romantic points by saying things that sound like quotes from similar situations he’s seen on the big screen. This makes Dean the character all the more perceptible, as we all seem to be searching for that encompassing, heartfelt but powerful thought in the midst of a struggle to proclaim one’s love.
SIGHTS: Blue Valentine offers a full story by telling itself in two ways: the way they started, and the way they are now. Flashbacks operate like extended montages, or even like music videos, as the concise moments in their lives are accompanied by Grizzly Bear’s score. The film’s cinematography effectively differentiates itself, with a hand-held camera capturing the beginnings of Dean and Cindy as if it were a third person, while their cold modern day relationship is shot with a stubborn camera that feels stuck in its place.
SOUNDS: These two old souls listen to tunes as old as their parents, like “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” or “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” Contrasting their declared taste is the score, as the two are followed around by a collection of motifs created by Grizzly Bear, which makes the whole of this film feel more gray than blue.
BEST SCENE: While I was unaware when watching that it was featured in the trailer, the song and dance sequence that showed the couple at its cheeriest felt like the most powerful sequence, especially with its implementation of the striking optimistic yet sorrowful song, “You Always Hurt The One You Love.”
ENDING: Fireworks get in your eyes.
QUESTIONS: What kind of budget did this movie have? What would it have looked like without Gosling or Williams? Is this the first movie of its size to use the hip-hop phrase “no homo”?
REWATCHABILITY: The power of Blue Valentine does survive a second viewing, but it’s just not the type of movie one would want to dive into joyously. In one way or the other, it’s a very well done buzzkill.
The most haunting aspect of Blue Valentine is its honesty. Like other commendable movies about two humans trying to create one love, the film strikes into the audience with its tangibility, as portrayed by murky performances from the powerful Gosling and Williams. It’s the type of movie you don’t want to take a date to, because you’ll see so much of yourself in the film that your own Dean+Cindy-like deep discussion will be almost inevitable. At the same time, Blue Valentine is not a movie that can avoid discussion. It doesn’t leave your heart or mind for a while, especially if it takes residence within one’s own memories. Literally, Blue Valentine is so good that it hurts.
Providing a full view of a palpable relationship, the film provides another acute definition for heartbreaking. The irony within this story is that Blue Valentine would not beat as hard were it not for the potent on-screen relationship of its two luminous stars.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10