Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Blue Valentine

I got the blues. Well, I had them and it lasted till the morning after I watched this excellent movie. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are outstanding in this heartfelt piece of filming. They each fully commit to their roles and completely convince you about the part they play in this story about the end of a relationship.

WARNING – don’t watch on a first/second date, unless you’re a dude and you’re trying to impress your new lady friend with your “sensitivity”. Nah, even then don’t do it. In fact couples should only watch it if they have a certain level of maturity.

The film moves back and forward –beautifully timed, linked and edited BTW – between the beginning of the end of the relationship and the actual beginning. The seeds are sown in the early parts of the movie – we see 

Dean is a good guy; kind and thoughtful with a good sense of humour. Cindy is the nurturing type, looking after her grandmother, accepting perfunctory sex from an earlier boyfriend (who makes her pregnant) and we also get to see the boorish behaviour of her father at home which perhaps explains why she accepts the asshole boyfriend.

Dean and Cindy meet. They fall in love and then the movie splices back to the deterioration of their marriage and your emotions get all in a tangle. Sure, the reason they got hitched was flawed, but they loved each other didn’t they? How could a couple with such potential end in this way?

Who’s to blame? No one. Both of them. You get to decide. (And I’m wondering what the gender divide is on this one.)

There are several scenes that time will show us rank amongst the most iconic moments in cinema history. A couple in particular spring immediately to mind. Dean and Cindy are in front of a shop. Dean is singing in a goofy, Elvis voice and Cindy is dancing to his tune in her best early level tap dance. This is a heart-warming moment, full of charm. If it doesn’t make you smile you need to crack open your ribs with those thingies you see on E.R and check if there’s a heart beating inside you.

Another scene demonstrates how far they have fallen. Dean rents a room in a motel. They need to spend more time together. We see them in the shower. Cindy gives Dean the cold shoulder. Later on she invites him to join her on the floor. We can see her self-loathing, her cringe from his touch and she eggs him on to violence, demanding punishment as an act of love. Dean refuses. He’s not that guy. He can’t and won’t hit her.

This is a brave movie filled with uncomfortable moments and heightened by award-winning performances (if they didn’t, they should have) from the 2 main leads. It avoids the well-trodden tropes of Hollywood – the man is not a violent addict/ drunk spending all hours at work, the woman is not a ball-busting harridan/ addict/ drunk/ reformed prostitute. We don’t get fed the usual three act format (you know, #1 -guy wins girl - #2 guy loses girl - #3 guy wins girl back) instead we are treated to a fly on the wall examination of a couple who have simply fallen out of love. Shit happens and there isn’t always a pat reason for it and that is perhaps the bravest thing of all for this moviemaker to demonstrate.

Definitely not a picker-uper – more for when you feel the need to reflect or to get the old grey matter working. Or when you want to watch two talented actors do what they do best.


  1. Thanks for reviewing this. I'm going to check it out. Err... by myself.

  2. yes, i'd like to see it but i 'heard' it was hard to watch two good people endure a meltdown.

  3. I've been meaning to put this on my Netflix list. I'd been ambivalent about it because I hadn't heard anyone talk much about it. On your good word, sir, I shall add it and give it a go.

  4. although it demanded certain effort for me to like it, I did kinda like the film, but mostly because of the extraordinary Michelle Williams whom I considered the only American thespian, since, as you know, Dezz likes mostly British actors :)
    And mind what I say, Michelle will win an Oscar next year for MY WEEKEND WITH MARYLIN. The actress which doesn't win it one year and is the moral winner always gets it the next one.

  5. Barb - be sure to let me know what you think.

    Thea -that's the truth of it.

    LG - come back and let me know if you think I'm full of b.s.

    Dezmond - didn't you also think ryan gosling was excellent? (Now off to look up My Weekend with Marylin.)

  6. no, I actually don't really like Gosling's acting. He has a neurotic and a bit schizophrenic approach to acting, kinda like Sean Pean and Al Pacino, and I don't like that since I find it very egocentric.

  7. I usually like Gosling, will check this one out

  8. When I've ready for a downer, I know where to go.

  9. Alex, if your relationship has come to an end and you want to wallow in it -that's the time!