Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)


Ryan Gosling (Dean), Michelle Williams (Cindy). Screenplay by Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis and Derek Cianfrance. Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Running time: 120 minutes.

If you saw Revolutionary Road two years ago, you should have been as awestruck as I was by the quality of acting and hard hitting story of a marriage going wrong due to an evaporation of optimism and pure, ecstatic love over time. You will have also felt, however, that Frank and April Wheeler were both a little odd, and far from representative of most married couples. Considering this, it is probably fair to say Blue Valentine normalises a lot of the themes that originated in Yates’ novel, but it also departs from them in a very significant way: alongside the portrayal of the tragic breakup, it concurrently gives us flashes of the good times initiating the relationship in the first place. As such, it hits even harder, feeling brutally realistic and unapologetically tragic, largely thanks to the powerhouse duo of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams leading its cast. Both of them should be destined for further Oscar nominations at the very least, if the Academy has any sense left in it.

Blue Valentine really does flip achingly well between the joy of flourishing early love and the tragic withering of it in later life. Gosling plays an incredible man – someone who works simply for a removal company, but is more interesting than most intellectuals and easily a real romanticist of the first order. When he meets Cindy he knows instantaneously that he wants her, and he goes through hell to ensure she’s his.

At the same time, we see him in later life as a father and husband who is naturally less energetic than in the past, slightly drained by age despite his persistent love of his daughter and quietly adorable sense of humour. You can sense immediately that something is not quite right in Cindy’s attitude; any attempt he makes to relight their previously shared flame is immediately blown out by her without any willingness to cooperate nor explanation.

Most of this is shot in painfully intense close-ups, and it is once again testament to both Gosling and Williams’ talent that they never crack under the scrutiny, always looking like the tied-up but disintegrating couple they’re supposed to be.

It’s hard to resist this one. For all its pain as well as moments of romance, it really strikes a chord throughout its duration. This will easily be one of the best pieces of drama to reach the cinemas this year.

One Response to “Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)”

  1. 1 Academy awards: what will win and what should. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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