Monday 9 May 2011


Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray is this heartbreaking romance starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Told across different time frames, Blue Valentine tells us how Dean (Ryan Gosling) meets Cindy (Michelle Williams), and of the instant attraction to her he'd like to pursue. Years later we see how Dean and Cindy are married and have a daughter, but their relationship has started to break down to the point of bitterness between the once vibrant lovers. As they try to recapture the spark that they've lost we see the early stages of their courtship and what first brought them together.

I've long been a fan of a good ol' indie romance. Be it Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or 500 Days of Summer, it's a genre of films that always show a more realistic human experience than a thousand Kate Hudson rom-com's put together. Blue Valentine has been a film I've been anticipating for quite a while due to the talent behind it, but I wasn't quite prepared for what a heartbreaking and bittersweet viewing experience it really is. Documenting the slow demise of Dean and Cindy's relationship, this story of the flickering flame of love will have resonance with many people. Eternal Sunshine is a fair comparison, as both films don't shy away from the melancholy.

Although I was aware of him as an actor before, Ryan Gosling didn't really capture my attention until 2006's Half Nelson, playing a troubled school teacher in a role that was written for a man much older than him. He was able to earn himself an Oscar nomination in the process, not to mention the attention of a whole new audience. Michelle Williams I've always associated with her role on the teen drama Dawson's Creek, despite that series ending long ago (Gosling also had an inauspicious start on the Mickey Mouse Club), but it's fair to say that following her roles in Brokeback Mountain, Meek's Cutoff and now Blue Valentine, she's proven to everyone that she truly is a fine actress.

It's the details that truly make this film work - the music that belongs to them, the looks at one another, the unwillingness to accept defeat; this feels like a real relationship. Neither Dean or Cindy is the bad guy, both exhibiting behaviour that could be deemed rational considering the circumstances. She's the responsible parent with a full time job, he's the fun parent with an unstable career, but both are equally loved and appreciated by their daughter. The acting is superb on both counts. Michelle Williams received an Oscar nomination for her role but Ryan Gosling was cruelly snubbed by the Academy; a fact that's all the more frustrating when you see just how reliant both actors were on one another to get the performances needed. Williams couldn't have reached these emotional depths without Gosling and vice versa. 

Not all elements of the film work 100%. The future-themed Motel room the couple visit in an effort to rekindle their love is a cold environment that carries an obvious subtext, and the balding effect used on Gosling is a somewhat distracting move at times (although one that makes more sense if you've seen what director Derek Cianfrance looks like), but it does help to separate the two time frames. These flaws don't linger though, especially in a film that's filled with some great little moments (the ukulele tap dance is adorably cute, the child molester joke is sick and funny).

The story doesn't really have a definitive ending, but that only adds to its believability. By the time the end credits roll this film will have undoubtedly affected you, and by being truthful in its characterisation and situations, Blue Valentine has become one of the all time great indie romances. A classic.


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