You have to admire the sheer certainty of vision from Blue Valentine and writer-director Derek Cianfrance. A film like this in the Hollywood system usually finds a way to leave everyone happy at the end. Blue Valentine doesn’t, but it really can’t end that way. Most films would find a way to shoehorn it on but this film doesn’t.
Dean (Ryan Golsing) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple that were once very much in love. About to divorce we see them through two separate storylines. The film follows them in two eras of their lives. The first is that last weekend as they try to figure it all out, both knowing that it’s over but giving it one last try to see if it can be resuscitated. The other is at the beginnings of their relationship, the seeds of love that ended up turning to failure. We see as they fall in and out of love, from the beginnings in the “meet cute” phase and in the “walk away angry” phrase.
It’s an autopsy of a marriage that has failed. It’s Cianfrance’s version of Scenes from a Marriage as we see Dean and Cindy at two distinct points in their relationship. The first is when they’re younger, and in love. It’s innocent in a way; they’re both damaged people who manage to find a connection with one another at one time and then lose it. And it’s an absolute acting clinic from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as Cianfrance makes it an actor’s film and not a story-driven film.
The film wouldn’t work without Gosling and Williams having immaculate chemistry and turning in brilliant performances. The film doesn’t work without them and it’s equally tough because they’re playing two characters apiece as opposed to one character over time. Dean and Cindy are presented in two separate storylines and both Gosling and Williams have two distinct versions of each to play. They’re so radically different, the younger and older versions of each couple, that they’re almost four people. They just happen to share the same actors and names. Cindy and Dean as a married couple on the verge of divorce, and the young couple falling in love, are so different that it takes a lot of talent to pull both off successfully.
The thing is this is a painful film to watch as we’re seeing a couple at the end, ala Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and it’s unrelenting. Credit Cianfrance for not pulling any punches and having the confidence as a director to not change course and give this film an ending that feels artificial and tacked on.
Long ago, a romantic comedy that came and went to little fan fare once asked “What happens six months later?” as a rhetorical moment. Given that 50% of married couples divorce every year, Blue Valentine is a good cinematic response.
This is a low budget indie film and the transfer shows it. It’s not a brilliant looking film and the transfer is nothing brilliant.
Deleted Scenes are included but were cut for a reason.
The Making of Blue Valentine focuses on the film’s production. Cianfrance wrote the film as a reaction to his childhood fear of his parents divorcing, which came true at 20. It took some time to get the film together, as he had developed it for almost half a decade with both Gosling and Williams (independently). They lived in a home together for a month as part of the film, building a common history so that there would be a shared experience and had a strong working experience. It helped give them a history together as opposed to faking it.
“Frankie and Unicorn” (Home Movie) is the result of the month’s worth of living together in a house.
There’s a Feature Commentary with Cianfrance and Co-Editor Jim Helton.
Some romantic dramas are tough to watch for a variety of reasons, and Blue Valentine is one of them. It’s easy to watch a couple fall in love, it’s much more difficult to see them split apart.
The Weinstein Company presents Blue Valentine. Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams. Written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD and Blu-ray: May, 10, 2011.
Tags: Blue Valentine, michelle williams, Ryan Gosling