Blue Valentine

Posted by ron On April - 17 - 2011

The best of intentions can often lead to some harsh lessons in life and love.

When the usher at the Village East Cinema actively warned every person who bought a ticket for Blue Valentine not to see this movie with your significant other, an overwhelming feeling of Caveat Emptor washed over every cinemaphile in the vicinity.

Serendipity was a cruel muse in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. It’s a story about how two people fall in love but ultimately end up miserable. The film plots two starting points in time that ultimately converge at a point where the two individuals played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams simultaneously marry and divorce. If the brief synopsis sounded generic, it was. Plots in romantic films are rarely innovative. Judging from the rate of divorce society hasn’t been learning from its mistakes. In fact, one would argue more people are falling out of love than ever before. However, it’s not so much where the story in Blue Valentine began or its predictable ending but rather the contrast of temperature generated by the two acting powerhouses in each forthcoming scene in one moment in time juxtaposed against the other moment in the time line.

Due to the quality of acting, Blue Valentine created its own category that was equal parts love story and horror film, not of the Fatal Attraction variety but more of one that made anyone unlucky in love re-visit the demons of past tortured relationships and reopened a few old wounds in the process. Both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams challenged themselves to create believable compelling characters that are naïve by no fault of their own. Dean (Gosling) was a free spirit who never had an agenda in life. He hoped to get by in life with good looks and clinging to his idealistic vision of love. He was forced out of his comfort zone and into the role of committing to something that he would later leave unfulfilled. Cindy (Williams) fell for Dean’s humor and dreamer mentality but it’s clear she never really loved him. She just felt guilty when he was beaten to a pulp by her ex-boyfriend for their affair. When Cindy found out she was pregnant, she went to Dean without ever really finding out who the father was. It’s a moment of great personal sacrifice and serious contemplation. As the couple aged, the wear and tear of being parents and struggling took its toll. Her compromises and having lived with Dean’s complacency and drinking drove her mad. Cindy didn’t become her parents but lived a nightmare worse than even she could have imagined.

Through their performances, the film never tried to rationalize why people fall in love or do the things that they do. Emotions cannot be rationalized, thus the complexity in spontaneity with human nature. The only thing that can be measured in a relationship is cause and effect. Certainly these two well-intentioned individuals weren’t exactly honest with themselves or each other when they signed up for marriage. It’s brutal honesty and heartbreaking in a way that Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart would shed a tear.

If I had to rate Blue Valentine, I’d give it a well aged, Scotch with a lot of personality and familiarity that is hard to swallow but good to the last drop.


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