“Blue Valentine” is like watching a car wreck in slow motion. It is hard to witness, but you can’t keep your eyes off it. The movie centers on a romance that has gone wrong. Most people have gone through at least bad relationship in their life. It will be instantly relatable as you view it on the screen.
Director Derek Cianfrance has created a compelling picture of two people going in opposite directions. Cianfrance jumps from various points in time to show how the relationship begins and the ending result. You can basically call it two films in one.
Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are the main players in this poignant tale. Cianfrance did a smart thing by stopping filming and letting the two actors put on some weight for the later scenes.
In the early scenes, Dean has a playful nature to him. He doesn’t take anything too seriously. He is just trying to make it in the world and he gets work as a mover. On one of his jobs, he spots the luminous Cindy and is instantly taken by her.
Cindy though already has a boyfriend, but she is intrigued by the very forward Dean. Cindy is going to college studying to be a nurse. She has high hopes for her future and her career. Her relationship quickly fizzles out, but not before she gets pregnant. One of the most heartbreaking and powerful scenes is when Cindy decides to abort her unborn child. It is nerve wracking to watch whether she will go through with the procedure. Both sides of the issue should be happy with how the situation is portrayed. The pro choice faction can point to that she had this option to begin with. The pro life people can applaud that she didn’t go through with it and that this shows the value of life. Either way it is skillfully done and gives a fair portrayal of all the emotions a woman feels when confronted with this issue.
For his part, Dean stands by Cindy with the decision that she makes. He knows that the child is not his, but he still wants to raise her as his own. You are rooting for this couple to make it work. After all the trials and tribulations early on, you tend to think that they could get through anything. But as you know, life isn’t like that. Life is messy and obstacles are always in the distance no matter how good life can get.
The later scenes are presented in more muted colors as the romance fades. Dean is in a holding pattern in his career. He now works as a house painter and is perfectly content with the job. As long as he has some cash in his pocket, he couldn’t be more satisfied. Dean’s appearance also has a satisfied feel to it. His hair is thinner and he has put on some pounds in the midriff area. It is almost like Dean thinks that he has made it and doesn’t have to try anymore.
On the other hand, Cindy’s prospects are looking up. She has a good job in a doctor’s office with possible advancement in the future. She also has put on some weight and there is weariness in her eyes as family life has taken its toll.
Most people know when a relationship is winding down. You barely speak anymore and there is no spark left. “Blue Valentine” shows clues here and there at where all this is headed. At the kitchen table, Cindy is exasperated by Dean’s immature behavior. She was drawn by his demeanor at the outset, but Dean never evolves from this persona. Cindy begins to see that his behavior is more like their daughter than a grown adult. Cindy notices it even clearer when Dean takes her to a tacky hotel for a romantic getaway. At this point, Cindy is just going through the motions. Cindy knows where this is headed just by witnessing her own parents. They barely talk to one another and her father blows up at her mother for no good reason. This is the future as Cindy pictures it and it is not good. After a blow up at her place of work, Cindy knows exactly what to do.
Cianfrance does a good job of not presenting everything in black and white. Dean is not a cardboard villain who you hiss at. Cindy and Dean are just at different stages of their lives. Dean likes the status quo, while Cindy is looking for bigger and better things.
Gosling and Williams get major kudos for showing all the ranges of emotions from elation and joy to sorrow and anger. They basically have to play two different characters of the same person. It had to be a major juggling act to get in the appropriate state of mind for the right scene.
“Blue Valentine” can be tough to watch, but is well worth the time checking out. Gosling and Williams give knockout performances and Cianfrance shows great promise as an up and coming filmmaker.