Blue Valentine – Is it you?
2010 was an unusual year for me, seeing only about a third (or less) of the number of new movies that I have seen in almost every year in the past decade. That said, of the few dozen that I got to see (and we all know the movie year doesn’t end until the time of the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl of movies, so there’s more to see), Derek Cianfrance Blue Valentine is my favorite. You could even venture an objective opinion (is that an oxymoron?) And say that it is absolutely the best movie of the year.
I’ve named this Derek Cianfrance movie and while it’s true that his greatness is largely due to his work as a director and co-writer (along with Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis), Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams have created such credible performances. and raw emotional intensity that it is easy to forget the invisible hand of the director. Gosling plays Dean, a high school dropout who now works as a house painter and drinks too much; Williams is Cindy, an on-call nurse who struggles to balance her heavy workload with the time she spends caring for her daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka). One weekend, they leave Frankie with Cindy’s father and go to a “cheesy sex motel” to get drunk and try to forget the pressures in their lives for a while. However, what they find when they are alone together is how far they have gone from the happy early days of their relationship.
Those happier days are interspersed with the present in a brilliant non-linear pastiche that perfectly reveals the details of how your relationship has progressed at the right times. While drunkenly trying to make love with resentment at the motel, the film harks back to one of their first times in bed together (a tame but completely realistic scene that inexplicably almost made the film NC-17 rated) . At first, we see Dean playing a ukulele quite sadly in the present; later, we see the much younger Dean serenading the much younger Cindy with the same instrument on their unofficial first date. Other much more crucial details, which of course must not be spoiled, are revealed even more carefully, all with perfect timing and restraint.
Gosling and Williams are simply amazing, which makes the subtle differences between their younger and older selves absolutely believable – we can see the years and all their ups and downs in their faces, we can feel the gradual and almost imperceptible disappointment that has elapsed between then. and now. The script is also so perfectly constructed that while we never know exactly why things have gone so bad, we never doubt that this is because they don’t know either. There is a scene towards the end of the film, shortly after the biggest emotional and physical explosion between the two leads, that contains such calm beauty and such a wonderful metaphor of the couple’s search for what they have lost that it almost touched me. Until tears. just remembering it.
This is a heartbreakingly sad movie, and when I reflect that a large part of that is down to the way it really portrays real life, I only feel sadder. As the cliche goes, watch it with someone you love and treasure that while it lasts.