Blue Valentine is a raw film about the turbulent breakdown of a marriage after only a few years. It’s not a film i’d recommend seeing after a break-up as its subject matter may hit home a little too hard. It shows a couple who have come to resent eachother and can no longer communicate unless they are arguing, but who are attempting to hold it together for the sake of their child. It’s a familiar story, but i’ve never seen it done on screen before in such an up close and personal way.
In Blue Valentine, the husband Dean(Ryan Gosling) makes a last ditched attempt to rekindle the romance in his dying marriage by convincing his reluctant wife Cindy(Michelle Williams) to spend a night with him in a cheap motel. The motel scenes are extremely uncomfortable to watch, and are so intense that you feel like you’re invading a couple’s personal space by watching them. This feeling of discomfort reflects the way Cindy now feels about Dean; she recoils when he tries to touch her and does not want to be alone with him. The physical intimacy they once shared is now all but completely gone.
The film cuts from the present motel scenes to the past, showing how Cindy and Dean met and got together. Their budding romance is nearly cut short when Cindy announces she is pregnant with her ex boyfriend’s child. Dean offers to bring the child up as his own and proposes to Cindy. As a result, they marry and find themselves tied down and settled with a child before they really even know eachother.
The audience are not shown what has happened in the intervening years for the couple, but there is no need. It’s clear from their current feelings for one another that things went downhill for them the moment they got married before they were really ready. A lot of the film is shot using a handheld camera which refelcts the turbulent and unstable nature of their relationship, as well as the dysfunctional nature of the characters.
The familiar story is what I found most disturbing about Blue Valentine, as it was very easy to see why the couple did rush into things and it was not obvious that they were making a mistake. Their actions seem like a logical response to the situation they have found themselves in, and this makes the resulting breakdown of their marriage more heartbreaking and relatable.
The performances by the two leads are superb. They convincingly portray the raw emotions of a desperate couple who have come to the end of the line in their relationship. I was really hoping Michelle Williams would get an oscar for this, but Natalie Portman pipped her to the post. My only complaint regarding Gosling’s performance is that sometimes he seemed to be trying too hard and he didn’t fall into the role quite as naturally as Williams did.
Blue Valentine is a raw film that makes for uncomfortable viewing. It’s definitely not a date movie, but if you can handle the intensity it contains and don’t mind the discomfort, then it’s definitely one to watch.
Starring: Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling
Dir: Derek Cianfrance