A marriage collapses into ruins in Blue Valentine, a sharp and well-acted drama.
Looky-loos in search of some steamy nudity and sexy sex will be rather disappointed with this movie, which does have both sex and nudity — and graphic versions of same — but isn’t exactly smoking hot. It’s more the kind of sex and nudity that make you think about the choices we make in life. It’s sex and nudity with regret and resentment.
This is definitely not a date movie.
Dean (Ryan Gosling), a house painter, and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a nurse, are married with child — young daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka). They both love their child but this may be the only thing they agree on. They pick away at each other — Dean criticizes nearly everything Cindy does at the house, Cindy sees Dean as a sort of failure. Out of desperation, Dean convinces Cindy to leave Frankie at a grandparent’s house and come with him to a theme hotel. The theme of their particular room is “the future” — something their relationship probably doesn’t have.
Intercut with scenes of their horrible present are scenes of Dean and Cindy’s past. He is a mover who brings an elderly man’s belongings to the same nursing home where Cindy’s grandmother is living. Cindy comes from an unhappy home but she’s determined to make something of her life — to find true love and be a doctor. Cindy and Dean meet and even though Cindy is sort of dating someone else, there is a connection between them.
A chance meeting, a feeling of love at first sight — it’s romantic, and in most stories it would be the beginning of a happily ever after. But what can seem romantic in a movie can be destructive in real life, and real life is where this movie tries to go. Cindy and Dean get caught up in love, ignoring some of the early warning signs. When lust wears off, they’re left with all the things that have always made their successful relationship unlikely: Cindy’s career ambition, Dean’s lack of it, Cindy’s lack of self-esteem when it comes to love, the lousy relationship examples demonstrated by both of their sets of parents and the unresolved issues from Cindy’s boyfriend directly preceding Dean. In the present timeline of the movie, Cindy, and even to some extent Dean, knows they’re not right for each other any more but the pain of acknowledging that seems as excruciating to them as the pain of doing nothing.
Gosling and Williams both give excellent performances. Gosling gives us a Dean who is wonderfully human — a sweet dad and a possibly still loving husband who is nevertheless deeply flawed. Williams makes Cindy nicely indecisive about her life and yet still crushingly sad. These are roles that definitely deserve all the acclaim they’ve received.
Of course, top-notch performances don’t necessarily translate into a big fun time. Plenty of scenes in this movie are painful — I think if I were watching this movie at home I might even be tempted to fast-forward through some of the rawer parts. Stick with it, though, and you’ll be treated with some seriously good work.
Rated R for strong graphic sexual content, language and a beating. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and written by Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis, Blue Valentine is an hour and 54 minutes long and is distributed by The Weinstein Company.