“Blue Valentine” quickly became my new favorite movie with its unique portrayal of real-life situations. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star as Dean and Cindy, who play a married couple with a young daughter struggling to get back to where they were in the beginning of their relationship, when butterflies were in their stomachs, and they were on top of the world—together.
The plot may seem basic, but the story heart-wrenchingly portrays the emotions during each individual situation with aching accuracy. Any viewer who has loved another person will relate to the complexity of that feeling and how it transforms over time, sometimes for the worse. The acting is exquisitely raw and the script is compelling.
A significant theme in the film was music. The two main characters frequently listen to their music via headphones, the indie band Grizzly Bear provides music throughout the film and in one of the most lovable scenes, Gosling’s character, Dean, dedicates a song to Cindy and calling it “our own song.”
One of the best scenes in the film is when both characters reveal their “special talents.” In a bit of foreshadowing, Gosling’s character Dean sings the 1944 song “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love.”
In addition to the importance of music in the film, the director and writer, Derek Cianfrance, explains the film’s title is homage to Tom Waits’ album of the same name. He said “I feel like he [Tom Waits] saved my life so many times.”
The film was a long time in the making. Cianfrance wrote 66 drafts of the script during the course of 12 years.
One of the reasons it did take so long to get from concept to production was Michelle Williams’ family obligations. She explained to Cianfrance that she made a promise to her daughter to tuck her into bed every night and take her to school in the morning.
Fortunately for viewers, Cianfrance knew she was the right one for this role and relocated the set of the film to an hour away from her home, stating “this was a film she had spent almost a third of her life dreaming of doing…the fact that she couldn’t make a decision like that, you know, for her family, such a selfless decision against her career was the reason why she was the only person that could play this role.”
He was right. Williams’ character Cindy plays the role of mother and lonely wife with great tenderness that is rare to see on the screen.
The shining star, though, was Gosling. He depicts the kind of person you would fall in love with—kind, clever and nurturing.
Another brilliant aspect of the film was that neither character is depicted as hateful or unlovable, an easy tactic used frequently in films as a way to explain a broken relationship.
The film’s consistent mantra is verbalized when Cindy questions the concept of getting close to the one you love or loved with the tragic words, “How can you trust your feelings when they just disappear like that?”
The most successful aspect of the film is its ability to grab you and bring you into the frightening, sincere, hurtful moments between Cindy and Dean.
Cianfrance’s goal in making the film was that very thing: “In the midst of moments, you don’t always have a clear painted picture where everything makes sense to you. I wanted ‘Blue Valentine’ to be an emotional film, first and foremost…I wanted the emotion to be honest and have the movie feel as if you were inside those moments. It’s really present tense filmmaking.”
The reason emotion is such a strong, and certainly the most essential element in the film, is Gosling and Williams’ dedication to getting every moment as real as possible. This realness can be excruciating to watch, because it reminds you of similar moments during the agony experienced when a relationship is falling apart.
“Blue Valentine” takes you on an emotional, gritty journey and unabashedly pushes you to recognize similar situations you have experienced. It’s a must-see punch-in-the-gut kind of film and isn’t for the faint-hearted.