So there are the typical love stories about flowers and gummy bears with warm feelings and charming witty-ness and yaayy! And then there are the stories that are reality; examples of temporary euphoria, emotional apprehension, flawed personalities, previous baggage and the harshness that is life. Should those stories be any less portrayed in films? BLUE VALENTINE says ‘no’.
Starring my favorite actors of Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams, BLUE VALENTINE is a small, touching, and, at times, horrible love story about two people who fell victim to circumstance, rose out of it beautifully and got in their own way. A very small story about a chance encounter leading a young couple down a whirlwind relationship that doesn’t go exactly how they expect.
They’re initially young with dreams fueled by the exuberance of being in love. However the future is different, and they might be happy, but they’re constantly dealing with the fact that they settled for the life they have.
It’s no secret that Gosling is one of my favorite actors. I’m even told that I might have a man-crush on him. But even if that’s true, it’s justifiably so. Gosling can probably become one the best actors of his generation. Contrary to his typical pretty boy look, Gosling plays a pathetic husband and father with receding hairline with no goals or ambitions in life, just going through it a day at a time. And he destroys the role. It’s a brutally honest portrayal of a man muddling through life, and trying to be happy. His lack of self worth affects his relationship with his wife, which makes up the core of the story.
Michelle Williams doesn’t do a lot of films, but man when she does, she really blows minds. Playing a wife who is constantly reminded of her youthful errors, which is further exasperated by the fact that her husband doesn’t share her regrets, is painful to watch. It’s the role of a lifetime, and deservingly so, considered it garnered her an Oscar Nomination.
BLUE VALENTINE is not for the faint of heart. There are excruciatingly painful moments that will literally cause the audience to hold their breath in anticipation of the scene to play itself out. Surprisingly though, at the same time, there are moments of pure laugh out loud hilarity; not to meant to be so, but it’s quite subtle. I wonder how effective those moments are for people that haven’t been in relationships that have caused healthy fights.
Director Derek Cianfrance stems from a Documentary background, and it shows throughout BLUE VALENTINE. The underplayed drama, explosive chemistry between the characters… are all toned down, not an ounce of melodrama, further enhancing the extreme serious-ness of that scene. It’s like watching your neighbors fighting in front of you… you’re not sure if or when you should intervene, or even make them aware that you’re there. BLUE VALENTINE is able to invoke those ‘stop everything you’re doing until this is over’ reactions that very few films are capable of.
Sure, an explosive action or Sci-Fi film with breathtaking visuals can be exciting as hell… but it’s hard to replicate that with a story about relationships. Cianfrance does so seamlessly.
Following a back and forth from present to past using flashbacks, we get to experience the highs and lows of this couple, who are at a crossroads. The best thing about BLUE VALENTINE has to be it’s ambiguous ending.
It’s a painfully horrible story to watch due to its intense realism about a couple that’s struggling to continue to be in love with one another, BLUE VALENTINE is a serious story, with intense performances and realism that is unparalleled in this genre so far.