'Blue Valentine': A Depressing Work of Art
“Blue Valentine” represents the antithesis of our cultural expectation for relationships in film. By that I mean that it’s the opposite of the traditional American romance movie.
The real question is if this translates to it being a good film. And in all respects, it is a great film. Maybe even a masterpiece. But not a happy one.
The film is about the beginning and the end of the marriage between Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling), jumping back and forth between the two time periods spanning about seven years. There’s not much more to the plot than that.
It’s a movie that no one can really spoil for you. That’s because this is a purely character-driven movie, and it really doesn’t matter that there’s no intricate plot-line going on.
For this to work, the acting needs to be incredible, and it is. Both Gosling and Williams play their characters as believably as possible. It felt like someone actually filmed the lives of these characters and was showing it to me.
When their relationship first starts, it’s sweet, and I felt genuinely happy for them. In the later time period, the two look older, and act like they’ve been through a lot together. Unfortunately, neither of them are in love with each other anymore, and it shows. They both try, but you can tell that they know the truth.
But nothing, as far as long-term relationships are concerned, is as difficult as ending things, and both of them wrestle with that in their own way. In a sense, when the credits rolled, I knew just about everything there was to know about Cindy and Dean, and I don’t know that I can say that about many other stories, especially one packed into two hours.
I walked out of the theater not really knowing what to do with my life.
This is typically a sign that I just beheld a great story, and that was partly the case here, but I would be lying if I told you that was the only reason.
First of all: this is a depressing movie, and you should know this before watching. I don’t want a new couple going in thinking it’ll be a romance, then leave thinking that maybe this whole dating thing was a bad idea.
Second: I felt a little nauseous after all was said and done. I attribute this to the cinematography, where it seemed like the camera was uncomfortably close to the characters, particularly during the sex scenes.
The camera’s proximity to the actors reflects the audience’s own relation to these characters and the focus the story has on them; we know everything about these people, good and bad.
In particular, the scene that likely made me nauseous was a sex scene where the camera positioned itself a few inches away from a character’s face. This character was not making a happy face.
Thematically, “Blue Valentine” does not seem to hold any hope for relationships. No example of a long, healthy relationship is evident anywhere in the film, which made me think that it was trying to tell me that good relationships are an impossibility.
Maybe though, it’s not meant to be analyzed for some sort of meaning, but is instead simply a story, nothing more, nothing less.
It is with this in mind that I recommend you watch “Blue Valentine.” Otherwise, you may leave wondering if anything is worth it at all.