Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, John Doman, Faith Wladyka, Mike Vogel

Director: Derek Clanfrance

Writer(s): Derek Clanfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne

Cinematography: Andrij Parekh

Original Score: Grizzly Bear

Running Time: 114 Mins.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are no strangers to intimate, and often raw, character studies favouring the brutal reality of life over cinematic story-telling, one need look no further than Half Nelson or I’m Not There for evidence of this. They are awards baiting roles for a reason, there are few actors who are capable of playing emotional wrecks quite as convincingly as Williams and Reynolds whether that be in an external or internal sense there is a feeling of harsh truth behind their eyes which makes them perfect to play a couple experiencing the highs, and more pertinently the lows, of love.

Blue Valentine is THAT film, story is put on the back-burner in favour of lingering scenes that simply allow the audience to enter the lives of a couple, like you or I, that are simultaneously enjoying the highs and lows of life. Raising question such as what does it mean to be in love? Should the hard times be worked through? What does it mean to remain faithful in a loveless marriage? And in the case of Dean (Gosling) is simply being a husband and father enough or should one aspire for more? All questions that weigh heavily on the minds of many of us but usually not so openly, that Blue Valentine dares to raise such questions is where the intensity and brutal reality is found.

Very few films cut this close to “true love”, dispensing with the fairytale conceit Cindy (Williams) herself initially holds dear we see what it is like to fall in love, convincingly for a change on celluloid, and then see that love weigh and crack under pressures of life, not big issues such as money or fidelity but the seemingly smaller ones that are ultimately the more dangerous and destructive, eating away at a couple slowly from the inside we feel Dean and Cindy’s pain. Neither are bad or good party’s of blame, Cindy could be accused of taking Dean’s affections for granted and seeming almost cold while Dean himself appears to be a drunken lay about though not in the clichéd sense, he doesn’t beat his wife, or cheat and he is an good father.

Taking place over two different time periods, the end of a relationship and the beginning of it helps highlight the aforementioned highs and lows in an easy to digest way despite chopping and cutting back and forth. The early sections are more filmic, colourful and melancholy suggesting hope and fresh vibrancy while the latter sections are all handheld DV, every scene a close up to highlight the angst on the couples faces catching every tear, frown and tic, it is here that awards buzz is rightly earned as Gosling segue from being actors to representations of something more real than real, likely forged as they spent months together prior to filming getting to know each other from top to bottom.

This is arguably not new ground, many a small independent film has covered similar ground to varying degrees, some for laughs and some for tears, I neither cried nor laughed during Blue Valentine but I did ponder, that age-old question as to what love actually means, and that I feel is the film-makers goal even if it still defies a cosy answer that can be put in a greeting card.

VERDICT

Blue Valentine is not a film to be enjoyed rather it is one to consume and ponder over simply because the performance is that good that it transcends beyond acting, to a place where you could almost be watching real life, and love, unfurl before your very eyes.

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