blue valentine | my movie review

Posted on April 22, 2013



Following on from watching Silver Linings Playbook, which is about two people realising they are right for one another, I watched Blue Valentine. This is also a movie about two people coming to the realisation that they are not right for each other. In this movie we spend time with Dean and Cindy aa they go through the motions of coming to terms with the fact that their marriage is no longer working. This movie is raw, hypnotising and stripped back.

There have been other films that have tackled this subject. Revolutionary Road being the one that first springs to mind, which I didn’t like at all. That is a far more glossy movie than we are presented with here.

Michelle Williams, who has most recently starred in Oz the Great & Powerful and My Week with Marilyn stars alongside the incredible screen presence that goes by the name of Ryan Gosling. Gosling is proving to be one of the most notable actors of our day. From appearing in several low key movies in the noughties such as Stay, Fracture and Murder by Numbers, he has become one of the most intense actors to watch. Blue Valentine is Gosling pre Drive and The Ides of March.

We join Dean [Ryan Gosling] and Cindy [Michelle Williams] when they have been together a long while. Dean is in menial paid employment while Cindy, who dreamed of becoming a nurse, is a radiographer. They have a daughter, a dog, and a life that has long since lost its shine. Dean loves Cindy but has become despondent and empty, drinking away the days of a life he hadn’t planned for himself. As he tells Cindy “I never wanted kids, never wanted to be a father.” Likewise, the joy that she felt being around him, with his guitar playing and goofy singing has long gone. They are tired… of each other and their life together. Interspersed within the scenes of these two people coming to the realisation that their marriage is over, and has been over for a long time, we are treated to scenes of them in the beginning of their relationship. We see the first time they meet, their awkward first encounters, the fun they have and the conversations on the bus and over coffee. All too sudden, within weeks of meeting each other and, more importantly, before they really know each other, they have to make a decision that forces them to either stay together for the long haul, or to go their separate ways.

Sounds like a barrel of laughs doesn’t it? Oddly the movie isn’t as depressing as it sounds, but it is a sad one nonetheless. The way that writer and director Derek Cianfrance handles the subject matter and the way he draws out these characters is spellbinding. Apparently he filmed the early scenes of Dean and Cindy first while Ryan and Michelle weren’t familiar with each other, then he sent them off to live together for a month – to go shopping, cook together, have domestic arguments, etc – to get to know one another. Then he brought them back to shoot the scenes of Dean and Cindy later in life. Much of the movie was improvised. Cianfrance would talk to them individually telling them of a specific thing that he wanted that character to do in that scene – then left them to their own devices. As a result we get to watch two talented actors verbally bouncing off each other in a way that we are seldom able to experience. We sense the bitterness they have for each other – despite the desperate attempt by Dean to rescue their marriage by having a night away at a seedy motel where they can physically bond again. Sadly, in a relationship where there has been too much silence, Cindy needs them to spend this time together, alone, talking about their marriage and where it’s going.

The film is beautifully balanced. Gosling and Williams are perfect onscreen as the troubled couple and the whole thing feels incredibly natural and unsentimental.

There are elements that could have been left out, notably a scene involving the ex-boyfriend, and I would have liked the movie to have not forgotten completely about the fact that there was a child involved. The whole thing felt very much about them as a couple and never as a family.

Those minor niggles aside, this is a movie for movie lovers. It’s not enjoyable or uplifting – but there is an undeniable power in the performances and the tragedy of the story being told.


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