Directed by: Derek Cianfrance. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel. Runtime: 1h 52 min. Released: December 29, 2010 (US limited release)
I had tweeted before watching this film that Blue Valentine is a first-time watch and I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready for it. That’s because I’ve heard that it’s a “feel-bad” movie. Truly, that’s why I haven’t seen this until now, but I thought it was about time I watched it because I like Derek Cianfrance as a director and this is apparently his best film.
However, I enjoy both The Place Beyond the Pines and even The Light Between Oceans better than this. This just isn’t a film that I was invested in. I find the concept intriguing as the film tells the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) as we see the start of their relationship and the process of them falling in love. These scenes are shown in flashbacks six years ago, as our characters are currently in the present where their current standing is further from a happy marriage.
The writing by Cianfrance and co-writers Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne is also seamless in its transitions for its flashbacks and it’s well-written in its contrast of scenes at the start of their relationship and where they currently stand. The dialogue is also strong in its realism and when the pair argues, it feels like a dance between Gosling and Williams. The best part of the film for me were the performances from Gosling and Williams. They’re raw and their performances near the end of the film is where they are at their most heartbreaking.
I think my big problem with this is just that the pacing is slow and I found it boring throughout. I liked the scenes of them falling in love and them in the past, but I just never fully clicked with the characters. They’re real, everyday people and while that makes the film feel realistic and allows for very raw performances. And while something like Marriage Story works for me for similar reasons, I thought that drama was captivating and I liked the characters. Here, I just didn’t connect to the characters as much as I wanted to and didn’t feel any emotional reactions to the story until 20 minutes left.
I’d like to talk a bit about what worked for me there, so spoiler alert.
The contrast of Dean trying to fight for their marriage edited with their wedding is great filmmaking. This is one of the points where it worked emotionally for me. Dean walking away and his daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) chasing after him is also crushing. I think my favourite moment was the heat of anger for Dean when Cindy asks for a divorce and he takes his wedding ring off and throws it away. He then immediately goes through the bush looking for it. This scene worked best for me because it’s a knee-jerk reaction to losing everything, throwing it away and then realizing just what he’s done.
End of spoilers.
The arguments and negativity in the film and its sad story left me exhausted, and I’d be more exhausted if I were invested in these characters. The story here works, and the look of the film does too (with cinematography by Andrij Parekh), but there’s just something about it that underwhelmed me. It’s well-directed, well-acted and well-written but I didn’t like how I felt during this and I didn’t like the characters. It’s an anti-romance film that I appreciated more than enjoyed. However, that end credit sequence with the fireworks exploding over stills of the film is one of the most creative end credit sequences I’ve seen, so kudos for that.