Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BLUE VALENTINE (2010)

Written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne & Joey Curtis

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  January 10, 2011 2:30PM


When most people choose to get married, they have selected someone that they expect to be with for the rest of their lives but sometimes things simply just do not go according to plans.

"Blue Valentine" is a terrific film that focuses on the contrast of the sweet, budding romance of a young couple and the painful, torturous demise of their crumbling marriage.

We first meet Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) after six years of marriage. There is an immediate sense that this relationship is slowly deteriorating under the weight of unrealized dreams and most likely, unrealistic expectations. Cindy is stressed out and overworked, first at her job as a nurse, then at home, caring for her adorable five year old daughter and her other "big" kid; her husband. Dean helps out by working occasionally as a house painter but it's clear that his wife is the adult putting the food on the table.

One morning, their daughter is desperately searching for her missing dog. Unfortunately, Cindy later finds the dog on the side of the road, a victim of an automobile accident. They decide to have her stay with Cindy's father for a day while they handle the burial.

After their pet is laid to rest, Dean comes up with an idea for the couple to go to a cheesy honeymoon hotel, that they have been meaning to go to after their wedding. He hopes that this will help rekindle the fading flame of their romance but Cindy doesn't seem particularly interested in doing this. She eventually decides to go, perhaps also quietly hoping that this trip might help repair what is currently absent in their relationship.

Intercut throughout the film, we are shown how Dean and Cindy first came together six years ago and fell in love. Cindy was a high school student, working on becoming a doctor and dating a handsome wrestler (Mike Vogel). Dean, while working for a moving company, was helping move in a new resident in to a nursing home when he spots Cindy, who was returning her grandmother to the same home. He is immediately smitten with this attractive young girl and tries to ask her out. She resists his charms but he is determined and gives her his number, seriously counting on her to call him.  She doesn't call but circumstances brings the two together anyway which starts a tender, intense and free-wheeling love affair.

Cindy later discovers that she is pregnant and unsure of who the father might be, struggles with her options on whether to keep the baby and how this news will effect her new boyfriend.

Back to the present, the honeymoon trip doesn't go as well as planned, in fact it does nothing more than bring up long festering issues that may fracture the relationship irreparably.

Mr.Cianfrance had worked on this script for ten years and has said that becoming a father himself helped him find the right voice for the screenplay. During filming, he had no rehearsals and rarely shot more than one take plus his work in documentaries clearly helped ground "Blue Valentine" and gave it a wonderful spontaneous feel.

Both Mr. Gosling and Ms Williams give blistering raw emotional performances. Considering the material, it would have been very easy for these actors to appear overwrought and melodramatic but there is not one moment that doesn't feel genuine and natural. I have stated this previously about him in a review and I'm going to reiterate that Ryan Gosling is one of the most dynamic actors working right now and it's good to see him in a film worthy of his talents. That constant smirk on his face would come across extremely obnoxious on most other people but with Mr. Gosling, it can have alot of different meanings and it is all part of his charm.

I have to be honest and say I've been less enamored of Ms Williams in the past, although most everything I have seen her in, I have liked her performances, most especially her brilliant work in the 2008 independent film, "Wendy and Lucy" and she is quite impressive in this film.

"Blue Valentine" is a brilliantly honest and powerful film that is most impressive in the way that it truthfully shows all of the sides of a relationship; from the breathtakingly tender and passionate moments to the times when things may become complicatedly hostile and destructive but the film does it in a way that is vibrant and innovative.