Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Written by: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladkya, John Doman, Mike Vogel
Fairytale endings rarely ever show the impact time and attrition can have on any relationship, but especially a romantic one. Things don’t always work out in the way we imagine and the person we believed to be charming shows their ugly side after some time of comfortability and stress. It becomes the mission of Blue Valentine to show how much love can deteriorate, which makes it incredibly painful to watch.
While delivering furniture to a nursing home, Dean (Ryan Gosling) meets Cindy (Michelle Williams) and after some initial trepidation, they begin to date. After Cindy reveals a pregnancy from a previous relationship, Dean commits to their union for the future. Years pass and the once happy couple fight and no longer resemble who they were when they initially met.
For years Blue Valentine has been dubbed the movie no one should see with their significant other, especially on a first date. It’s received the moniker because of the way it shows a relationship in two phases and how it cuts between them throughout the narrative. You will be watching them connect as young folks with all of the wonder and excitement that brews at the beginning of the relationship only to flash forward and see just how miserable they have become. The story shows when the honeymoon phase shatters and if the foundation of the relationship is not sound, then it will crumble when stress and issues begin to arise.
It reminds me of having a savings account for emergency funds. You must have something to protect you from the eventual emergencies in life. If that fund is in place, then any financial emergencies become inconveniences. Similarly with love, having a strong foundation and recognition of a couple’s relationship and values on-hand allows the issues Cindy and Dean face later be less important rather than causing major rifts between them. You should not be ready to have those discussions extremely early with someone you’ve just entered a relationship with, so I agree with the sentiment that this movie should be viewed with a significant other, only if you have that reserve.
The shift between the two timelines brings up the cruel reality that two individuals who would do anything for each other would want to choke each other out just a few years later. In real-time you get to see the dissipation of love and a train crash you know will occur but you’re afraid to watch. It makes me think of a divorced couple, who’ve had kids together and had a relationship for many years only to eventually hate each other. Do you ever think, wow these two once professed they would be with each other until their dying breaths and now they despise each other? Time and attrition allow for people to wear each other down to their most vulnerable states and if the fights continue and cross certain lines, the relationship can possibly never recover. It makes it difficult to watch the very cute scenes of Cindy dancing along to Dean’s obnoxious singing with a ukulele knowing their relationship will be in tatters anyway.
This film is certainly a two-hander of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Two actors with exceptional range but they display what the progression of time has done to the relationship of these characters. Gosling goes from his pretty boy self to a balding older man, I assume occurs partly because of the stress he’s felt. Williams shows the progression of a woman exhausted by the circumstances of her life. Cindy’s parents always bickered and yelled at each other. I can imagine she did not want to have the same type of relationship with her significant other, but no matter how much she tries, she must admit she has done no different. These two brilliant actors go toe-to-toe with one another and display their expertise in the skill of acting. They bring out the raw nature of these characters and how much the years of fighting and attrition has impacted them physically and mentally.
Blue Valentine serves as the explosion of the career of director Derek Cianfrance, who knows how to craft some hard-hitting drama and romances. Each of his films has a moment where characters reach a point of no return and the decisions they make in those moments define them. It happens certainly in this film but also in The Light Between Oceans and The Place Beyond the Pines. His characters always happen to be placed in the most emotionally daunting situations, and their pain becomes a moment of reflection for us all. Happiness becomes a premium with his films, which in turn makes those joyful moments so much more satisfying. He does tremendous work in Blue Valentine with how he frames the stories and how the younger expression of love shifts into the moments where it lacks it the most.
Serving as a painful reminder and an arduous journey, Blue Valentine shows the dissipation of love between two people who thought they were meant to be. It allows for two exceptional actors to dive into these roles and drudge out the humanity that gets burrowed into their souls as their relationship progresses. The story does the opposite of making you believe in love but shows the reality of most relationships when they hit an impasse and what each member is willing to do to keep it afloat. Life after a fairytale ending must continue no matter how beautiful one snapshot may be.