Blue Valentine Review
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As they often say, “no press is bad press.” That’s certainly the case for director Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. As word of the film’s rating struggle spread, the film garnered all kinds of attention—eventually leading to Golden Globe nods for both Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Despite the hassle that they had to endure to get the film an R rating (instead of the original, inexplicable NC-17 rating), though, the filmmakers should write the MPAA a thank you card—because, without the publicity, this simple but honest film probably would have gone unnoticed.

Williams and Gosling star as Cindy and Dean, a couple whose marriage is stuck in a dangerous downward spiral. After their beloved family dog is hit by a car, they send their daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), to her grandpa (John Doman) while they struggle to work through their grief—both for the dog and their relationship.

Blue Valentine is a bookend portrait of a troubled relationship, moving back and forth without warning from the couple’s troubled present to their whirlwind past—when hopeless romantic Dean did everything in his power to persuade her to give him a chance. Years later, he’s still trying to persuade her, but it seems that the traits that made her fall in love with him years ago are the same ones that she’s now tired of.

Like almost any young couple, Cindy and Dean adorable when they first fall in love—so young, joyful, and full of life. But since the film shows what they become before it shows what they once were, there’s always a dark cloud over hanging over their happiness. So instead of a sweet love story, Blue Valentine is a rather somber but completely honest look at a marriage in distress—and two people whose lives have always seemed to be heading in different directions. It’s a film about falling in love…and falling apart.

Of course, the story has been told many times before—and, in the past, it’s been more compelling, too. So Blue Valentine isn’t an especially memorable drama—and it often feels rather distant and disconnected. Still, the performances make it worth a couple of hours of your time.

Gosling, especially, convincingly portrays his character’s struggle to maintain his idealistic image of the relationship while it’s so clearly falling apart before his eyes. He’s charming and utterly devoted to his family—but he’s also immature and rather irresponsible, and his fight to save the marriage is obviously wearing him down.

Williams, on the other hand, is colder and more distant as Cindy. She’s smart and responsible, but she gave up her dreams to become a wife and mother, and she resents Dean for it. She’s not an easy character to like, but she’s one that you’ll understand nonetheless.

So while it may not be the most memorable (or uplifting) of relationship dramas, Blue Valentine is an honest portrayal of a failing marriage—one made more compelling by its noteworthy performances.

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