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Blue Valentine

Dir: Derek Cianfrance

Rating: 4.7/5.0

The Weinstein Company

114 Minutes

Blue Valentine begins at the beginning of the end. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) awake to find their dog missing, the start of yet another fight. But this fight has been brewing for a long time and it kicks off a few horrible days that end with the implosion of their tenuous marriage. Blue Valentine doesn’t merely trace the devolution of a marriage. As we watch the couple disintegrate, director Derek Cianfrance chronicles another tale, the couple’s genesis, intercutting lyrical sequences of falling in love, creating an emotionally raw journey of love found and lost. Happy couples are all alike, it is how they meet and break apart that’s different.

Dean knows the marriage is DOA. You can see it in his eyes. However, the couple has a young daughter together, one that Dean adopted after Cindy was accidentally knocked up by her jackass college boyfriend. But things have gone sour in Scranton. This is a story of dashed dreams. Cindy has grown cold, no longer amused by Dean’s clowning or his drinking. Neither is doing what they want in life. Cindy, who had dreams of medical school is an ultrasound technician. Dean paints houses and drinks beer. It is time for a change. Meanwhile, we flash back some years. Both characters are younger and thinner. Dean has more hair, working for a moving company in New York. Cindy is at college. They meet when Dean moves a client into a nursing home in Pennsylvania where Cindy’s grandmother lives. It’s love at first sight for Dean while Cindy is more tentative.

The two stories curl around each other, two serpentine tales pulling us closer and closer to the truth inherent in the relationship. Before the bust up, Dean senses the end is near and begs Cindy to go away with him for a night to rekindle their passion. “Let’s get drunk and make love,” he implores her, whisking her to a chintzy love motel where the room is “future” themed. Bad choice, Dean. There is no future here.

Cianfrance is deliberate in how he frames the two stories. The present is shot in long, fixed takes, the camera suffocatingly close to Gosling and Williams, enveloping the audience in their anger. For the past sequences, Cianfrance use a wide angle lens, allowing the scenes and the actors to breath. They dance in the streets of Scranton and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s an escape from the oppressive thing the relationship has become. It’s that nostalgia of first love.

Gosling and Williams are some of the finest young actors working right now and Blue Valentine is the perfect showcase for their skills. For anyone that has been in a failing relationship, the pain is right up there on the screen, the emotional immediacy too much to ignore. Blue Valentine is not a film where you take sides, hate one character while feeling for the other. Both Dean and Cindy have their foibles but they are also human. An elusive sad lingers over the entire film. The sadness of erosion, the sadness of loss, the sadness of an irreparable relationship.

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