Hollywood may be the home of the happy ending, but America’s independent landscape has proved to be the habitat of braver, more brutal truths. In the case of Blue Valentine, those truths concern the darker side of love; namely that it doesn’t necessarily last forever, and that it can be as ugly as it is beautiful. But while this idea may be a rarity in modern cinema, it certainly makes for an intriguing and involving film.
We are introduced to Dean (Ryan Gosling), his wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) and their beautiful young daughter through a series of familiar, domestic scenes. Father and daughter look for their missing dog; mum tries to get the family ready for their day. And while there is a noticeable undercurrent of tension between husband and wife, it seems to be nothing out the ordinary. But as the narrative develops, we see that Dean and Cindy are actually on the verge of complete marital collapse; a tragedy of emotion that’s underscored by flashbacks scenes which detail how their met and how they fell in love.
As a snapshot of modern love it’s undoubtedly a painful watch, but that doesn’t detract from its dramatic power. And that hinges completely on Gosling and Williams, who both put in epic performances, raw and vulnerable, unafraid to lay themselves bare on screen. Their chemistry is palpable whether they are pulling together in the intense, passionate flushes of a young relationship or pushing apart in the anger and frustration of a torrid breakup.
Derek Cinefrance’s direction, like the performances, aims for realism in all its torrid forms; whether we’re seeing the couple make their first, tentative steps towards each other or witnessing their last drunken attempt to recapture some passion, it’s all so real, so natural that the camera almost feels like a voyeur. As a result, it’s a vivid, heartbreaking and wonderful study of the birth and death of love.
UK Release Date: January 14, 2011