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Flicks - Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine 11/05/05 2:38
Flicks - Blue Valentine
Excellent performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams anchor this bittersweet portrayal of love falling on hard times. The way love relationships can turn from bliss to misery in a few short years is the subject of Blue Valentine, the achingly lovely film by Derek Cianfrance. The story starts with a little girl looking for the family dog that has run away. This becomes a kind of foreshadowing of the diminished feelings of love between the little girl's parents—Dean, played by Ryan Gosling, a house painter with a playful and offbeat nature; and Cindy, played by Michelle Williams, a nurse in a medical clinic, strong and capable, but increasingly stressed out and impatient with her husband's erratic ways. She finds the body of their dog, hit by a car, and they decide to leave the kid with her grandpa before telling her, and Dean gets the idea of trying to reignite some passion by going to a motel.
In the midst of this drama of married life, Cianfrance introduces scenes that take place five or six years earlier, when the couple first met, and their relationship sparked through a combination of chance, chemistry, and crisis. These flashbacks are not announced—you might not even notice them at first, but eventually the intertwining of past and present creates a bittersweet effect. For many of the same qualities and behaviors that are causing conflict in the marriage, were a source of joy and attraction during the courtship. It is sad and moving to witness how feelings can alter with time, and how we can be trapped in our own shortcomings without knowing how to free ourselves and connect.
Ryan Gosling is one of the finest young American actors, and his performance here is stunning. Dean is a man of great charm, funny and talented, but not skillful at listening or letting Cindy have her own space to be apart. When he gets upset, he talks at her, trying to compel her agreement with the power of his words. And it doesn't help at all that he drinks too much. Cindy deals with conflict by becoming silent and sullen, retreating and withholding her affection. Her upbringing in her own crazy family didn't teach her how to say what she wants. Michelle Williams embodies this stuck, frozen character with skill—it's a difficult role, and it won her an Oscar nomination.
Blue Valentine is beautiful to look at, shot in digital video by Andrij Parekh. The music, by the band Grizzly Bear, gives the film a sort of haunted feeling, a tone of longing and regret. Cianfrance and his two wonderful lead actors capture the way love and pain can coexist in the same moment, and the way people have to admit the truth about themselves before they can lay claim to someone else's heart.
Blue Valentine is available on DVD.