Blue Valentine

21 Jan

Title: Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance
Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
MPAA Rating:
R, strong graphic sexual content, language and a beating
112 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

Blue Valentine is, plain and simple, one of the best films to have come out in all 2010. One of the rawest, and most powerfully emotional films I have probably seen in my life, and a cinematic experience I doubt I’ll ever really forget. And to think that there was a time in which seeing this one seemed to have been unlikely, since, as you’ll remember, the MPAA infamously gave this one its dreaded NC-17 rating, which was  later appealed by the Weinstein’s and downgraded to an R. That appeal is one I’m insanely grateful for, since it allowed more people to fully experience Blue Valentine, a film that took a huge amount of time to get made, and that, even though is hard to watch at times, is an immensely compelling observation of a troubled marriage, anchored by two perfect performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

When I reviewed Rabbit Hole some weeks ago I noted that film, in addition to this one and Biutiful were the trifecta of films I was seriously looking forward to towards the end of the year, and it was a trio of films that also seemed would be very tough to watch at times. And even moreso than Rabbit Hole, this one’s hard to watch, but in that uncomfortable feel is where it finds itself being such a powerful experience, and this really is a masterpiece, a film I’ll no doubt grant a perfect grade.

And it’s that good because of three people. One is Derek Cianfrance, the director and one of the co-writers of the film, the guy wrote this film years ago, contacted Ms. Williams like six years ago, got Ryan Gosling on board for it some four years ago, and then had them prepare for their roles, reading the script, getting at ease with their characters without actually knowing each other. The guy that postponed his already-delayed project even more after Heath Ledger’s death out of respect to Ms. Williams instead of going ahead and shooting with another actress, a very smart move considering how perfect she was for the role and the film. And of course, the other two people responsible for Blue Valentine being so damn good are Ms. Williams and Mr. Gosling themselves, there are no words that will do either of their performances any justice, they are both just incendiary, giving raw and relentless performances, and feeding off each other to create something tremendous.

These are just two of my favorite performances of all 2010, and it pains me to realize that they may not even get nominated for an Academy Award, because I can’t think of many other actors that could have given such an honest and painfully beautiful performances. You just feel as if these two are doing an acting exercise at a masterclass and just doing wonders improvising of each other, an element that only adds to how real this all feels. There really is never a single second in which their relationship feels fake, their chemistry is a thing of wonder. It was reported that the two rented a home together in preparation, taking their own clothes, going shopping and staging arguments together, and it definitely worked for them, and us.

And this review will probably feel like I’m going on endlessly about these two, and with good reason, because they are the heart of film, they are naked on-screen, literally, yes, but more than nothing they are naked at an emotional level. This is after all, the observation of the union between two people, two people who are together for six years, and we witness the process of falling in and out of love, and the film raises questions about that, about why love happens, about why marriage is needed by some, about why some people just one day want it all to end.

And as a film doing an acute observation this one’s pretty damn perfect, much like the last film I saw, Another Year. This one obviously does a much different sort of observation, but much like that Mike Leigh film this one finds its perfection in the details it pays so much attention to. You see Cindy, Ms. Williams’ character, not even being able to remember what brought her to marriage in the first place once the six years have gone by, and it’s really hard to watch her deal with this at times. Much like it’s hard to watch Dean, Mr. Gosling’s character, just wanting to remain married for the sake of having someone to watch over him.

Accompanying Dean and Cindy through their story, her pregnancy, their quick marriage, their immediate love, and then their downfall is something we as an audience must really appreciate. I mean, these are two actors playing two versions of the same character, six years apart, six years in which their characters have gone through so much emotional transformations, and the way they show just that is what makes Blue Valentine such a tour de force. And we move between those two stages quite a bit, trying to figure out what went wrong with the marriage, trying to figure out why Cindy feels like so much went wrong, and why Dean apparently feels like nothing really did.

And discovering that is the challenge and the beauty of Blue Valentine. Trying to find out what exactly went wrong in their union to make them end up like they eventually do. Mr. Cianfrance, who with this one gives his sophomore feature film effort (and first since his little-seen debut in 1998, Brother Tied), has said that even he doesn’t really know what got Cindy and Dean here. And I don’t, either, and I’m okay with that, because so long as we can experience the journey we won’t need any more fulfillment.

I’ll end this review repeating something I’ve said quite a bit by now: Ms. Williams and Mr. Gosling are both at the top of their games here. She’s heartbreaking and perfect as she always seems to be, he’s convincing like crazy in showing Dean’s desperation and volatile nature. And they are both always there, very present with each other, trusting the other with themselves, and it’s sincerely beautiful to watch.

Grade: A+


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