Movie review: Blue Valentine
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Romance
Opens locally Friday, January 14th, 2011
Run Time: 2 hours, Rated R
Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Great movies come in many shapes and sizes, and some are so powerful and moving that you are thankful to have seen it even if you don't think you'd be able to sit through it again. Films that touch on reality are even more moving...some are so relatable that they become more than a movie. "Blue Valentine" is both a great movie, and one that is so raw, so real, that it transcends the screen. It's at the heart of why I love movies at all...how is it possible that a bit of film can infect your mind, body, and soul? "Blue Valentine" is a tough movie to swallow, and one that dare I say may not be for everyone...but one that I think everyone should see.
At it's core, "Blue Valentine" is a story about falling in love, convincing yourself what love is, and how fragile love can be. It's an examination of the process of how two people evolve, sometimes tragically, apart from one another. It's cold and warm wrapped into one, and for me was an emotionally draining experience. It contained similar themes from the movie "Revolution Road" starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet...that movie looked at how a marriage can break down, set in the 1950s. It was a powerful film, that made me shiver at the thought of marriage, portrayed so darkly and hopelessly. Maybe because Blue Valentine is set in modern times it becomes an even more powerful message.
Ryan Gosling is Dean, and Michelle Williams is Cindy, a married couple who's rise and fall are inter-cut in the film to masterful effect. In present time, we see that Dean and Cindy are in a deeply troubled relationship, and when we cut back to the playful early days of courtship we can't help but feel sympathy and hope that the two can rediscover love. In a last-ditch attempt to resurrect their marriage, Dean tries to plan a romantic evening at a local motel, requesting the "future room" over the more romantic suite. Neither Dean nor Cindy thought the future would look so bleak.
As we delve more into their past, we also discover that although they had similarities and a real affection for one another, neither of them were perfect for each other. Is there a such thing as the perfect match? Like many, Dean & Cindy focused only on what they wanted to focus on, overlooking the fatal flaws of the other person in hopes that one day things would change. Of course, these relationship cracks turned into huge crevasses later in life, chasms too wide to leap over or bridge. What you're left with is two people on opposing sides of the divide, neither at fault yet both to blame. As the couple tries to repair what's broken, it becomes a tragedy of epic proportions.
Most brilliantly, Blue Valentine is amazingly raw and real, with much of this credit going to first-time feature-film director Derek Cianfrance. It is cliche to say that he doesn't hit a false note, but it's true. Learning later that a great deal of the scenes were improvised by the actors, lends itself to why it came across so spontaneous and true. Originally gaining the NC-17 rating (formerly X) for one particularly emotional love scene, the filmmakers won an appeal to get it released with the R rating, without cutting the scene. I'm glad, because there is nothing in this film worthy of the NC-17 moniker, although I'm not sure anyone under 17 would be able to comprehend the complexities within.
No review of this film would be complete without touching on the brilliant, untouchable performance of Michelle Williams who is the emotional rock, delivering what in my opinion is by far the best female performance of the year. It would be a complete and utter shame if she does not gain recognition. Gosling is great as well, but it is Williams who must portray the film's deepest emotions and sink to the soul's deepest depths. At the film's climax, there hasn't been a more vulnerable actress on screen this year.
Blue Valentine works on every level as a case study on human relationships. It is a sad, deeply moving experience that showcased what I believe to be the worst-case relationship nightmare scenario: the possibility that two people can just fall out of love, not due to an incident or an act, but due to the wear and tear of time. It may be too real for some who are not in touch with their own psyche, who refuse to let movies like this penetrate their mind. But for those who allow it inside, you will be thankful for the experience, yet thankful when it's over as well. That's not a knock on the movie, but a credit to how deep a nerve it strikes.
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