Big, big day yesterday. I was dead tired. Dead tired + Saturday night + Netflix + Kiki on my lap for 2 hours = Film Review.
Blue Valentine is an art film that examines a sweet relationship gone wrong, telling the story of an unhappily married young couple in a series of flashbacks.
Blue Valentine opens with a six year old girl calling for her lost dog. Having heard about the film via an NPR interview with Michelle Williams, I already knew going in that the outcome would not be good for the couple or the dog. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a couple in their late twenties/early thirties who have fallen out of love. We enter their world as they get ready for work in the crappy, car-dominated rural bedroom suburbs.
They scramble around their dismal, messy house. Ryan Gosling is nearly unrecognizable as Dean, who sports annoying shaded sunglasses, a perpetual cigarette hanging from his lips, and a tragic receding hairline. The chilling effect upon Gosling’s innate hot good looks is amplified by his brilliant portrayal of Dean as an overgrown child. He’s sweet and good to his daughter, Frankie, but unfortunately he’s just another baby for his harried, overworked, tired wife to look after. So we definitely see what’s eating Cindy as she struggles to get food in her daughter’s mouth before school. We later find out that needing a beer at his painting job every morning is perfectly normal as far as Dean sees it, which gives us a foreshadowing of how bad things will become.
After Cindy discovers what happened to the family dog, the couple drops the daughter off at her grandpa’s for the evening. Dean books “The Future Room” at a gross love motel. Said motel has no windows, a vibrating bed, and is a lame, cheap attempt at eroticizing the set of Star Trek. The gaping chasm between men and women is underlined, italicized, and highlighted. For Dean, the eerie, blue lit room is a place to escape reality. He wants to get drunk and alleviate his sexual frustrations — he pushes for the physical sex he believes is the key reconnecting with his estranged wife. Cindy cannot begin to relax in “The Future Room”. Cindy is worried about keeping a roof over their heads and knows she has to work early the next morning at her medical office job; the horrid room and a drunk husband (who is jealous because she ran into an ex at the grocery store) is not going to help. She drinks halfheartedly while her husband gets blind drunk.
Flashbacks revisit Cindy’s and Dean’s romantic past and eventual courthouse wedding. While caring for her aging grandmother, Cindy dumps a handsome but abusive boyfriend who proceeds to stalk her. Dean, pre-receding hairline and full-blown drinking problem, is an idealistic sweetheart who takes it upon himself to befriend a complete stranger, an older man named Walter who is moving into a nursing home. Dean introduces himself to Cindy and it is love at first sight. He draws her out of her shyness and introduces her to the concept of laughter.
We go between the progression of Dean an Cindy’s relationship and its disintegration. Young Dean muses that most women long for Mr. Right and eventually settle for Mr. Has A Decent Job Right Now.
Except for the happy, electrified era of falling in love with Dean, Cindy trudges through her life, battling to be taken seriously amongst males who can only value her for her fading looks. Forced into a hard existence of supporting her family, she loses the ability to appreciate or recognize the good traits of her husband. Her misery is definitely not all her husband’s fault. She’s not able to enjoy a single moment of the life she chose and has virtually no sense of humor.
Gosling and Williams deserve Oscars for this film — I’m not sure if they won any as I don’t follow that stuff but if there is an award for good acting, they should have both won it. They were both utterly convincing as a real life couple who falls in love and then out of it. The most haunting aspect of the film (in my mind) is Dean’s memento mori of his friend Walter, a photo locket of Walter and his deceased wife when they were young and madly in love. Walter went to his grave loving his wife. Dean and Cindy? Maybe not. Blue Valentine is a visceral reminder that true love does not always last forever.