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Blue Valentine

January 10, 2011

It’s a shame that the buzz around Blue Valentine has been virtually negative and focused on its rating change from R to NC-17. The consequence of which could have resulted in a loss of viewers and revenue, little to no marketing as well as void chances of Oscar nominations. The outrage and disapproval of the rating as well as The Weinstein Company’s appeal of the rating helped the film retain its original R rating, and it’s a great thing too because to miss out on such a marvelously executed film should be a crime. Blue Valentine is gut-wrenchingly awkward and heartbreaking to watch yet it’s one of the best films I’ve had the pleasure to watch and hands down one of the best films of the lackluster 2010 movie year.

The buzz surrounding the film may actually have worked in its favor as most films receiving controversy over ratings and gratuitous sex scenes populate curious patrons who otherwise wouldn’t have watched. Yet Blue Valentine isn’t a flat and trite film with overtly sexual scenes to capture audiences like Ken Park or The Dreamers. Blue Valentine shouldn’t be seen just because of the sexuality, there’s depth and a captivating story to become engulfed in to the point that it destroys viewers by the end. Blue Valentine is one of those films that when the credits rolled everyone in the theater stayed in their seats in silence digesting what they had just seen. Some, including myself, used the credits as a chance to get ourselves together and wipe the tears from our eyes as well as stop the impending crying fits waiting to happen. It’s one of those movies that make you contemplate human nature and the notion of love.

Blue Valentine is a beautifully constructed exemplary example of what a character study piece is and does. The characters up for evaluation are Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a married couple with a young daughter living the mundane lives of being a settled family. The film cross cuts back and forth between the couple in the infancy of their relationship and the passion they once held to a climatic weekend of their present day lives in which constant arguing and miscommunication has become a staple in their relationship.

As the story progresses stories began to intertwine, secrets are revealed, and the blossoming love of the young couple starts to deteriorate. Director David Cianfrance uses the tactic of filming the couple in their past on actual film, making the aesthetics comfortable and more familiar while scenes of the couple in present day are shot digitally giving it a cold and at times harsh feel. At first the effect is jarring and amateurishly distracting, however, after the first few initial transitions the change becomes commonplace and is welcomed when scenes hit their most uncomfortable moments. Along with the aesthetic changes, Cianfrance’s choice to use tight close-ups in some scenes against voyeuristic medium and long shots are perfect examples of how the physical set up of a film can affect the emotions in the audience.

The portrayal of human emotion is the major attraction and compliment of the film. Actors Gosling and Williams give their best performances to portray the good and bad qualities of their characters Dean and Cindy. Although there may be a desire to see exactly where and how the passionately in love couple became the bickering weary couple of the present, it is shown through character development of both individuals. Gosling impressively makes portraying Dean seem easy as he becomes the giving, laid back, renaissance man who finds comfort in working a minimal job as a house painter so that he can be home with his wife and daughter. Dean is contrasted against Williams’ portrayal of Cindy, a hardworking nurse from a broken home in hopes of furthering her career. It becomes obvious throughout the film of how and why the two began to clash after years of domesticity and although it’s heartbreaking to see and accept, it becomes understandable to viewers.

Gosling has called Blue Valentine a “companion piece” to his 2004 romantic adaptation The Notebook and as odd of a comparison it may seem, it’s actually a perfect assessment. Blue Valentine focuses on what happens after the passionate first few years of a relationship. Film and books have long had a tradition of showing the infancy of relationships. There’s always passion and undying love, in fairy tales the man fights long and hard to get his princess, however, we are never shown what happens after love is won. When couples are years down the line and everything about them starts to annoy their significant other. Some may question the attraction of a film that’s so brutally honest and sad, however, Blue Valentine is not all depressing; there’s hilarious moments, heartwarming scenes in past and present, and while the ending may be assumed to be tragic there’s actually a hopeful sentiment to it. It’s a gem of a movie that will affect viewers differently depending on personal experience but should be seen nonetheless to experience how a great movie should be made.

SEE IT. Now and bring tissue.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 11:32 PM

    >This film was tough to watch. It held a mirror to my face, basically ripping my heart out. It's a film with a lot of truth in it. It doesn't insult the viewer with a "love conquers all" ending. Most definitely one of the best movies i've seen in a long, long time. Excellent review. I enjoyed it a lot.

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