Blue Valentine (2010)

When Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) dog goes missing, it is just another disaster in a steady stream of relentless strife. With the dog’s fate unknown until well into the movie, it is safe to say that by the time the truth is out you will be well and truly prepared for it. Hardiness training incarnate, Blue Valentine is a psychological exercise in learned helplessness as we witness the pair’s romance dwindle and die, ingeniously intercut with scenes from the relationship’s inception.

Taking a leaf out of Mark Webb’s book of bittersweet and splicing happy and sad scenes for our viewing pleasure, director Derek Cianfrance has crafted a truly devastating piece of cinema as we get to watch two individuals who are inherently wrong for one another fall in love – knowing all to well what unhappiness is destined to follow. Inverting such dramatic tropes as pregnancy and marriage, Cianfrance turns what were once joyous occasions into sombre sanctimonies of resounding remorse. Like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World I was desperately willing the protagonists to fall in love with other people, unlike Scott Pilgrim vs. The World there was no adorable Knives-like alternative.

That the movie is saved from laughable melodrama as things gradually make their way from bad to worse, only serves to demonstrate the collective talent of those involved. Starved professionally of a good day, Michelle Williams has certainly had time to practice her distraught face. Off the back of such happy-go-lucky romps as Brokeback Mountain, Mammoth and Shutter Island, she is perhaps one of the most sympathetic character-actors working today. Cast in perhaps the most anti-Notebook love story possible, Ryan Gosling meanwhile successfully transposes his three-tissue gentleman status with a thoroughly unlikeable turn. Although coming off positively angelic when sharing screentime – and blows – with the even more brutish Mike Vogel, Gosling is nevertheless a hugely sympathetic ass-hole. Tragically convinced he can change, his desperate but “look Dean, you’re totally going about this the wrong way” attempts to rekindle the romance with his increasingly despondent wife relentlessly pull on the overworked heartstrings.

The score also conspires to lend credence to this emotional downward spiral as indie favourite Grizzly Bear croon their own brand of through-provokingly solemn music. Despite themselves, it is with music that Blue Valentine truly comes alive. The actors and script genuinely convince that this intrinsically doomed relationship might actually work. Despite everything, the scenes depicting the relationships onset and following pregnancy and marriage radiate love and affection. As the couple break into impromtu song and dance, you are left clinging to this shred of warmth in an otherwise Arctic vacuum. As the song recurs, gaining significance the way only ‘our song’ ever could, it is thanks to the delightfully foreboding “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” and the heartwarming “You and Me” that you survive the movie with anything resembling a will to live.

Beautifully acted and making full use of its inspired two-tiered structure, Blue Valentine is a welcome alternative to the traditional Hollywood love story. Endearing, humbling and absolutely devastating, it is a movie to savour and appreciate rather than physically enjoy. Leave the popcorn at home for this one, preferably somewhere between you and the razor-blades.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Blue Valentine (2010)

  1. Pingback: January 2011 – It’s on like Donkey Kong « popcornaddict

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