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.
It’s 1954, and on an isolated island off the coast of Boston lies the notorious Ashecliffe psychiatric hospital. Housing some of the century’s most dangerous criminals, it is normally completely off-limits to outsiders but, when one of the patients mysteriously vanishes, Detective Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) arrive to solve the disappearance. Coming up against a secretive and tight-lipped staff, headed by Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley), Teddy finds his investigation hampered at every turn. When he finally discovers what’s been happening in the heavily-guarded lighthouse, Teddy thinks he’s well on the way to cracking the case. But, as he begins having powerful dreams about his time spent liberating German concentration camps during WWII, and vivid hallucinations of his dead wife (Michelle Williams), can Teddy leave Shutter Island before it claims his sanity?
Life is a cabaret…
Charlie Kaufman has long been regarded as one of America’s most intriguing screenwriters. Having penned such films as Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), his works delve deep into the human psyche, confronting issues of identity and self-awareness in outlandish ways that could easily intimidate and alienate an audience. But thanks to the strength of Kaufman’s writing and the clarity of his vision, his films have proven to be some of the most interesting and acclaimed projects fighting their way out of the originality-vacuum that is modern Hollywood. And his latest, Synecdoche, New York – which marks Kaufman’s debut as a director – is undoubtedly his finest work to date.