The other day I had the chance to watch Blue Valentine, the much talked about Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams film. I went into watching the film with high expectations because I had read so much about it already, and I have to say that every article about the movie is spot on. Blue Valentine is one of the most painful movies I’ve had to sit through.
The story of Blue Valentine revolves around two main characters, Gosling’s Dean and Williams’ Cindy. The movie switches back and forth between the beginning of their relationship and what is ultimately the end. In the beginning they seemed like any ordinary couple, completely enamored with each other, wanting to be together as much as possible, and showing blatant displays of affection. When we see what has happened between the two it is as if they are shells of their former selves. Everything is so volatile, so angry, and it makes you wonder just how they let their relationship fall apart.
Dean starts off as this sweet, charming, romantic high school dropout and works for a moving company in New York City. Cindy is attending college, has a boyfriend named Bobby, lives at home with her parents who are still miserably married to each other, and helps take care of her grandmother who is in an assisted living home. Dean meets Cindy for the first time when she’s visiting her grandmother and he is helping move an old man named Walter into his new living quarters. During this moment we see Dean be charismatic and persistent in his attempt to get a shot with Cindy. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and it mirrored how almost every relationship starts off.
The end shows Dean as a semi-childish man who is still married to Cindy, and has a daughter that is in elementary school. His love for the little girl is clear, and in his interactions with her we can easily see that he is a good father to her. They play together, he shows affection, and does what he should. Dean is now working as a painter, smokes like a chimney, and almost always has an alcoholic beverage in his hands. The spark in his eye is gone, his charisma and charm have instead turned into irritation and frustration, and it’s obvious he isn’t too satisfied with how his life has turned out. He does tell Cindy that while he didn’t ever see himself being a father or a husband, he couldn’t imagine being anything but. Regardless of that statement, you can tell that Dean didn’t envision that his marriage would be so fractured. Cindy has also lost her drive. Instead of becoming a doctor, she is a nurse, and also seems dissatisfied. Cindy is the firm parent, keeping things orderly and almost has to always have control over it all since she doesn’t feel like she can trust Dean to handle things.
Williams did a perfect job portraying Cindy in both time lines and gives a distinctly different personality for both. Same for Gosling. When Dean touches Cindy in the current time line, you can see Williams cringe and show disgust whereas before his touches were embraced. During the times the two become intimate, another stark comparison is shown. Before Dean and Cindy burned together like fire, but now the flame between them is a mere flicker at best. Dean is the only one who tries to maintain any form of intimacy between the two and when he does try to initiate sex he is met with rejection. His final attempt to reconcile and save their crumbling marriage is by taking Cindy to a cheap themed motel where they spend the night in the “Future Room” which looks like a rejected stage set from a faux Star Trek show.
In every way, Blue Valentine is perfect. We see two individuals come together and start their lives as one, and then we see their demise. What happens between the two and how they get to that point is left for the audience to decide. Did somebody cheat? Was there abuse? Was it a case of many little things building up and becoming one big problem? Or is it simply because two people slowly drifted apart and weren’t fit for each other anymore? Real life issues, scenarios, and problems are shown in such a realistic manner one would think that they are watching an actual documentary about a couple. That’s how awkward and painful the movie becomes. I seriously felt like I shouldn’t be watching the events unfold before my eyes because they felt like real and private moments between Gosling and Williams, something that I shouldn’t be privy to.
When movies like this come out it’s always a hit or miss. Not everybody is going to get it, and some simply cannot relate to it if they haven’t gone through some of those moments themselves, like having to deal with a crazy boyfriend, an unexpected pregnancy, or finding out that what you wanted for your life is merely a dream that you will never be able to obtain. Blue Valentine, while depressing and sad, is a slap in the face and shows just how bad things can get between a couple.
If you want something that’s realistic, something that shows the fragility of love, and something that’s unlike any other movie out there right now, I highly recommend you see Blue Valentine. It’s filmed beautifully, the acting is top notch, and it really helps make you appreciate what you do have in your life.