Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The makers of the emotionally tense, narrative light Blue Valentine would have us believe that relationships are a jigsaw puzzle, just waiting to be put, if not thrown, together from seemingly disparate pieces. But writer/director Derek Cianfrance and co-writers Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne are much less concerned with the pretty picture that might be created than with the inherently fragile nature of their construction and, as least from their perspective, the ease with which they can fall apart.

When we meet Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), they are not in a relationship happy place. Despite the presence of a cuddly moppet daughter, marriage has taken its toll as love gives way to a sort of contempt borne out of desperation, which sees them attempt to patch things up more in a bid to retain the status quo than through any real desire on either side. But this is not simply the tale of the remnants of a marriage flapping in the wind, we are - after being immersed in the bleakly shot emotional bloodbath of the present - thrust back in time, courtesy of altogether more jovial handheld 16mm, to see where it all began. In a sense, we come to learn how a shotgun romance, however loved-up, can still fire a bullet that will eventually prove fatal.

Copy picture

Some of the imagery and grainy footage of the pair making out is lovely and provides a glowing counterpoint to the grim present of Cindy's coldness and Dean's overdrinking. There is also no doubt that Williams and Gosling bring that ineffable spark of quality to the roles that only actors on the top of their game can truly muster.

But it is not just the structure of the couple's relationship that is problematic - so is the construction of the film. Although the idea of past and present comparison is a solid one, its introduction is cumbersomely handled, with the snippets of the past, including the particularly odd choice of showing Cindy in a wheelchair, initially suggesting we might be in alternative reality/Sliding Doors territory.

Even once the device beds in it still feels as if there is a missing jigsaw piece - we get overloaded with the beginning and the end of this affair but are left to wonder for ourselves just what became of the middle. There's potential with no pay-off, desolation with little downslide - it would be much easier to care if the filmmakers had begun to chart the breakdown side of the story sooner. As it is, for all its harrowing emotion, it's tough to completely buy in to this relationship.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2010
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Blue Valentine packshot
A couple love and lose.
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Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writer: Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Ben Shenkman, Liam Ferguson, Maryann Plunkett, Faith Wladyka, Samii Ryan, Tamara Torres, Carey Westbrook, Eileen Rosen, Michael J. Kraycik

Year: 2010

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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