Review: Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is almost a cruel joke. Now, don’t take those words the wrong way. I loved it. It was a fantastic analysis of the frailty of marriage and human relationships, but Cianfrance seems to be a presence in some of these frames, laughing sadistically.
At who? I think he’s laughing at the people who thought they were going to get a nice romantic date movie. And if this is the case, I join him in the laughter. I hate those people. Not that I’m prejudiced in any way, but if you look at a movie and size it up just like that, then maybe you shouldn’t be watching movies at all.
No, Blue Valentine is not a date movie. It’s tagline is “A Love Story” which I think is really a huge part of Cianfrance’s sense of humour. We see love on the screen; we see a couple, in the early stages of a relationship, laughing and loving, but what little love their is is crushed quickly. The technique? A non-linear storyline.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a couple who have been married for six years, and have a daughter. But their relationship is rocky. Williams is flustered and overworked, whilst Gosling is laid back, questioning how on Earth his wife became such a mess. There is no key to their relationship anymore; it’s as dead as a doorknob. And Cianfrance tells us this in the most powerful way possible: by juxtaposing scenes of their early days with the hollow, dead moments of their marriage’s cruel trainwreck. He puts the audience in an awfully uncomfortable position, forcing us to watch a relationship build whilst tormenting us with the knowledge of its future ruin. This is a powerful technique, and an extremely wise one on the part of Cianfrance.
Let’s think about it. If this were in chronological order, we’d have Gosling and Williams meeting, having a baby, getting married and slowly (figuratively) dying. What’s so interesting about that? We know it happens, it happens with almost every modern marriage, it’s a fact. But Cianfrance grabs our attention by shouting “Hey!” and alerting us to this. The emotional pity we feel for them is turned into regret and annoyance that we are unable to do anything. This is how a director captures their audience.
Realistically, marriage is a dangerous path. A fragile path. And one that’s likely to break. All the factors that attract a couple together soon burn and fizzle out. Looking at the couple in Blue Valentine, we can see this. They lose respect for each other. Sex becomes a chore, an unnecessary activity, and the only reason they feel they should stay together is for the sake of a child. There’s no love here. Only cold, bitter loneliness. And that, my friends, is Derek Cianfrance’s cruel joke.
Is It Worth Adding To Your Netflix Queue?