VOD film review: Blue Valentine
James R | On 31, Dec 2014
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka
Blue Valentine is a close-up portrayal of a marriage’s last legs. It’s painful, it’s sad and – what makes it particularly heartbreaking – it’s brilliantly done. Cindy (Williams) is a nurse, struggling through the dying days of her partnership with Dean (Gosling). They met years ago, back when he had potential and she had happiness. Now, she slaves away to feed their daughter (Wladyka), while he paints the inside of other people’s houses and starts drinking at 8am.
As a pair, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are ferociously on form. They fight and bicker with the same intensity as when they first fall in love, lurching from flirting on the bus to more brutal encouters with a natural, unforced bond. Both deserve Oscars for acting out such harrowing material with commitment and vulnerability. They even somehow manage to get some laughs in there, thank goodness.
But the star of the show is arguably the director. Taking us back to the couple’s swooning early stages, first-timer Derek Cianfrance switches the tone from sentimental to sad by cutting back and forth through their romance like a seasoned pro. In a perfectly judged piece of bittersweet storytelling, Dean serenades Cindy in a shop window with You Always Hurt the One You Love. It’s a tragic moment, which the soundtrack amplifies for the rest of the film.
Playing out like (500) Days of Summer but without the hipster sheen, Blue Valentine has an intensity that rings with first-hand experience. The claustrophobic decay of affection is a personal, intimate, and horrible thing to witness. From the optimistic opening to the stunning firework display at its close, you’ll love every second.