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.

My Rating:

4/5

Is It Worth Adding To Your Netflix Queue?

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About Tyler

Patient observer of all things film and music, from Béla Tarr to Boards of Canada. Foul mouthed and clinging to the edge of sanity.

Posted on July 8, 2011, in Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. So glad you liked it! And I definitely agree with your review (which is probably much easier to read than my one, haha). That non-linear storyline was used so well, and makes this movie a one of a kind sort of movie in a way. I absolutely love it!

    • It’s a great movie but I have a funny feeling I don’t love it as much as you did. Your review was much better than mine.

  2. Cool I only ever read good reviews of this film. I really must watch it.

    Marriage is a tough thing to see through? It shouldn’t be. OK it is not easy, there are ups and downs. But in the end it is a choice not to be taken lightly.

    I have been married for 7 years now and we couldn’t be happier. OK it is different to how it was when we started, WE are both different people, but we have grown together. I love my wife truly, and I know she feels the same. We have our rough spots, I don’t even want to talk about early 2010 but the point is you dig in and get through it TOGETHER. Divorce is far to easy an option these days.

    Anyway I am proper waffling now!! Sorry

    Great write up Tyler

    C

    • Thanks for your advice, Custard. And don’t worry about waffling on, I do it all the time ;)! It’s a really sad fact, but some people just weren’t made for marriage. This film illustrates that beautifully.

  3. I totally agree with you, this is a fine piece of cinema a film that goes deep and put us to the test with a strong screenplay and over the top performances of Gosling and Williams, they both deliver some amazing sequences that leave us breathless.

    The editing of the story is perfect and the non-linear storyline suits the movie perfect. The final sequence is brilliant and very moving.

    I loved this film!!!!

  4. Certainly one of the most realistic and gripping movies ever made on the theme of a romantic relationship, and a welcome antidote to the charmless, dimwitted, depressing brand of romantic “comedy” starring the likes of Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Hugh Grant, Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, etc. I remember seeing the teenaged Gosling for the first time in The Believer, and was blown away by the depth and maturity of his performance even then. I’ve found Michelle Williams to be a little more of a cipher, but she was awfully good and genuine in this. It’s the kind of wholly worthwhile movie that still gives you a little ray of hope, once or twice a year, that beautifully written and acted, thoughtful, glitz-free movies for adults are still possible.

    • I hope they’re still possible cos I (usually) love them. Michelle Williams is a bit of a cipher, isn’t she? But I have a secret crush on her so that makes it okay. 😉

  5. Good God this movie’s ending was devastatingly emotional, but I feel as if it’s still worth it watching them when they were slightly younger and couldn’t get their hands off each other. They’re one of cinema’s greatest couples.

    • I agree, they were a great couple, and the acting proved this phenomenally. In the scenes where the actors wer supposed to have chemistry, they had chemistry. When they were supposed to hate each other, they hated each other. Brilliant.

  6. I am a firm believer that both Dean and Cindy loved each other right until the end. It is the perfect example of getting into commitments when you’re too young. They didn’t really know each other when they decided to get married, and that probably made things worse as Cindy’s dream of becoming a doctor had to take a backseat for her family, while Dean didn’t want anything later on but to be a family man.

    I love this film to death, and glad that you loved it, too!

  7. A gut-wrenching movie with two fascinating performances. You are right that this isn’t a date movie at all ahah. Glad you “enjoyed” this Tyler.

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