Blue Valentine

9 Mar

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Blue Valentine tells the story of a married couple with a young daughter, who are enduring a serious breakdown in their relationship. We meet our two main characters in the present day, when Dean (Ryan Gosling) is helping his daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) look for their missing dog. Dean wears stained clothes and looks like a man who doesn’t have too much regard for his own appearance. A nice little insight into what being comfortable in a marriage might do to you.

Shorty after, we meet his wife Cindy (Michelle Williams). Cindy serves a seemingly below-par breakfast for Frankie, sparking an argument between herself and Dean. These opening scenes are fantastically crafted and display the key elements of the relationship that we’re going to have to deal with throughout the movie. Dean and Cindy are a little awkward around each other, but they’re doting parents to their daughter.

The near silence between the couple makes it clear that there is tension and an unhappiness at their situation, which develops well over the course of the film. There’s a lot to admire about this movie, not least the acting, which we’ll come to later. The place to start though is probably with the directing.

Not only do we see the relationship in the present day, but we’re also told the story of how Dean and Cindy came to meet, and eventually become a married couple. This part of the story is told not by way of flashbacks, which would have been an easy way of doing it, but rather the story just cuts between the two time-periods. The two narratives run along side each other almost seamlessly. It’s a fantastic way of telling the story of this couple.

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Setting the story at two very different points of the relationship really drags you into the whole thing. Seeing the pair meet and fall in love only makes it harder to see them falling out of love several years down the line.

We get some fantastic camera work too. It’s almost fly-on-the-wall at times. When the younger version of Dean and Cindy are walking down the street at night, we follow them from behind. The camera shakes as if we’re walking directly behind them. We’re almost spying on them. We hear little music, just the sounds of the city they inhabit which really helps pull you into the story as well. There’s nothing to concentrate on but the two people on screen.

Gosling and Williams are both absolutely magnificent in their roles. The younger-Dean is shy and endearing and a seemingly all-round good guy. As older-Dean, Gosling gives a fairly subtle and subdued performance at times. He seems like a guy who has lost his spark, and given up on any ambitions he might once have had. He has the air of a man still in love, convincing himself that he’s happy. The stripped back nature of his performance means that when he does start to lose himself and start ranting and raving, you really feel the impact of it.

In the best way possible, Williams never seems comfortable. Or, rather, her character never seems comfortable. Williams installs in her an almost tangible sense of vulnerability and sadness. The chemistry between the pair is astonishing, full of emotion and realism.

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From the direction of Derek Cianfrance, through to the acting masterclass displayed by two actors on top of their game, Blue Valentine is a fantastic study in the breakdown of an apparently happy relationship and the factors that can cause that. Billed on movie sites as a romance, I see that as more of an anti-romance, and a mesmerising, near-perfect one at that.

9/10

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5 Responses to “Blue Valentine”

  1. Diva's in Christ March 10, 2013 at 06:17 #

    enjoyed this movie

  2. vinnieh June 1, 2013 at 12:22 #

    Great post, I watched this recently and the acting really stood out for me.

    • Richard Burns June 2, 2013 at 16:06 #

      Yep. Gosling and Williams are two of the best around at the moment, they are incredible together

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Take This Waltz | I Liked That Film - June 4, 2013

    […] role – that of somebody struggling to hold a marriage together – in the wonderful Blue Valentine. In the movies I’ve seen her in, I’ve yet to see a disappointing performance. She really gives […]

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