Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this awesomely emotional, terrifyingly romantic drama that is a last minute contender for my film of the year.
When we first see Dean and Cindy, they are getting their daughter Frankie ready for school. They barely communicate with each other and don’t even make eye contact. Dean’s spent the night in the lounge room and the two don’t even kiss each other goodbye as Cindy drives off with Frankie. It’s a depressing scene, even if they’re both particularly good parents (though with vastly differing techniques). It’s a depressing beginning, but Blue Valentine isn’t simply a downer. You see, their current situation is juxtaposed with their first falling in love, which is as beautiful as you’d expect.
And so it goes. The film shows Gosling and Williams at the height of their abilities – their characters are brutally true to life, and wonderfully rounded. Dean and Cindy are perfectly lovable yet at the same time terribly flawed – like normal people, basically. Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne’s script is utterly perfect – whether we’re watching them plunge into love or we’re witnessing things falling apart, it’s impossible to point the finger at either Dean or Cindy. Without ever taking lazy narrative steps, it’s fascinating to watch elements of their relationship that are planted in the past grow to fruition in the present.
Blue Valentine is magnificently shot. It uses a kind of cinema verite style that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ken Loach film. Though I didn’t actually notice it during the screening, being so absorbed in the narrative, the two time periods are filmed differently. During the dizzying falling in love section, they use only handheld film cameras, whereas in the sterile present they’re utilising Red cameras on tripods. As I said, this isn’t something I noticed, but it no doubt helped differentiate between the moods of the two time periods.
Incredibly, Gosling and Williams age most convincingly as we jump back and forth. In fact, it’s probably a little overdone – the two parts of the narrative can’t be more than 6 years apart, surely – but it certainly drives home the point that they’re completely different people from when they first met.
Blue Valentine rivals Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for a gorgeously frank yet passionate analysis of a relationship. In fact, it’s an even better film as it doesn’t get distracted by subplots in the way that Gondry’s film did. It’s a heartbreaking yet still overwhelmingly positive feature with two characters that I felt for so much that I wanted to reach out and play marriage counsellor for them.
Please see this film. It really is spellbinding. The soundtrack courtesy of Grizzly Bear’s pretty cool, too. I just wouldn’t recommend it as a date movie.Rating: