Friday, December 31, 2010

BLUE VALENTINE

Written by Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams


Cindy: How do you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that?
Gramma: I think the only way to find out is to have those feelings.

When they say, “For better of for worse,” in wedding vows, I believe they are referring to BLUE VALENTINE in regards to the worse part. Novice feature filmmaker, Derek Cianfrance’s latest is a very particular snapshot of a very specific place in a relationship that far too many people know far too well. And only few of those people live to tell the tale with their wits still about them. In reality, this space is an incredibly difficult test of the mind, the spirit and the heart and every effort is usually made to avoid getting there. It is one of the darkest stages a relationship can reach but Cianfrance is not the least bit afraid of the dark.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, an indie dream couple if I’ve ever heard one before, are Dean and Cindy, a young couple with a little girl, living their married life in rural Pennsylvania. They have been together for six years but those years have been far from kind. At the moment we meet them, Dean is feeding his daughter breakfast while Cindy is getting ready for work – an ordinary morning for many a couple, I’m sure. The difference here is that this kitchen is weighted down with a crushing tension that is evident in every look given and every word spoken. She seems appalled by his every action and influence over their daughter and he seems to know it. The room is rotten with the stench of hatred.

Dean and Cindy know they don’t have much time left and decide to get a room at a cheap motel in New York City for the night in hopes of working through their issues and rekindling their romance. Their intentions are sincere but the fight is so insurmountable at times, they each struggle with their resolve. Gosling, while somewhat overwrought in his character’s intensity, must be commended for the amount of evident effort he made to make Dean real and not just a bad husband. That said, Williams is heartbreaking every moment she is on screen. Even the manner in which she clasps her fists during one of the film’s many sexual moments is emotionally devastating. Together, they genuinely feel like two people who have been oscillating between love and hate for years, so much so that it can be too much to take at times.

Cianfrance is a brave man for going to as many places of despair in BLUE VALENTINE as he does but he’s not stupid. He knows that an audience needs to breathe so he tells the entire story of their relationship in moments so that we can see that there once was a time when these two knew happiness, that there is another reason other than their daughter that they are fighting to stay together. The device is somewhat manipulative at times as its obvious point is to make us feel even worse that their relationship doesn’t seem to be salvageable. BLUE VALENTINE did make me feel pretty bad. I had been in some variation of that relationship in my life and it was hard enough to deal with then so, as fantastic as the film is in its most candid moments, I’m not sure everyone is ready to go back there again.

12 comments:

Candice Frederick said...

man i so want to see this now!

Black Sheep said...

I'm glad I could inspire such a reaction. You've been warned though. It ain't easy.

CS said...

I agree with you about Cianfrance being a brave man for going to as many places of despair as he did. The film would not have succeed as well otherwise. Really loved Blue Valentine, it was my second favourite film of the year.

Black Sheep said...

Number 2 film of the year is impressive. It made my Top 25 somewhere and I will remember it most for its performances.

5plitreel said...

AArggghh when is this coming to Europe, I adore Ryan Gosling. I hope he gets the Oscar nod so it will speed things up in this end ..

Black Sheep said...

First off, thanks for reading out in Europe. Secondly, if Gosling doesn't get a nod, Williams certainly will, I feel. In fact, I feel she has a better chance than he does.

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Zilbs said...

I kinda hated the movie. Yes I think Ryan and Michelle gave incredible performances down to little details like Michelle stroking his beard as she kisses Ryan on their wedding day. The characters were brilliant as well. So complex, dark, and hopeful. However, the structure of the film was a little bit cliche. And I'm all for cliche when it's embraced not when it pretends to be something other than cliche. I knew everything that was going to happen before it happened. Nothing caught me off guard. I also thought he could have cut about 25-30 minutes off the film because I had made all my conclusions long before the credits started to roll. Frankly I didn't care to see their wedding intertwined with their separation. It didn't build any more tension. It just repeated the tension that was already there. I think if you're going to make a film about failing love, then try and tell a story we haven't all heard before. Shame. I wanted to like it.

Black Sheep said...

Zilbs, huh? Cute. Anyway, thanks for the insight. I would tend to agree with you mostly. I clearly don't hate this movie. I do find it to be a particular challenge that not everyone responds to well, including myself. The performances and characters make the film, and even then I thought Gosling tried a little too hard. The structure though is the film's downfall because it was manipulative to show us where they came from so we would feel worse about where they ended up. And the director did definitely try to pass that off as innovation instead of cliche.

And is it a film about falling in love? They say it is but I get the impression that they only say it is to make a dark indie point about how love sucks. This film is about two people who are no longer in love. I did think that element is rarely told so honestly on film but the inserts of where they once were took away from it.

I might see it again. It is certainly a conversation starter.

Anonymous said...

Saw this yesterday and was very
unmoved. Two wonderful actors,
making their way around a mess
of a script. They sound as if
they are making it up as they
go along - and this is NO
compliment. This is poor man's
Cassavetes all the way.

Black Sheep said...

Thanks for that last perspective. They were making a lot of it up as they went along, I believe. It was meant to feel improvised and natural. That said, I do agree with you that the worst thing about this film is the script. It isn't dreadful but it is manipulative and pretends like it is genuine.

Thanks for reading.

Jesse_01 said...

I thought the acting was good. The movie story line ended up being a white trash story that's so typical.

Their marriage was falling part. So what does he suggest, have another kid..