DVD Review – Blue Valentine

This week sees the DVD and Blu-ray release of Blue Valentine, co-written and directed by first time feature director Derek Cianfrance. Starring acclaimed actors Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, it is a low-budget independent film following a couple’s deteriorating marriage, juxtaposed against flashbacks of the first flushes of young love between them.

Williams and Gosling play Dean and Cindy, a married couple with a young daughter. As the film begins, the strained relationship between the two lead characters is immediately obvious. Cindy is clearly frustrated with her current life and relationship, and yearns for something more, a more galvanised life and career. Dean yearns for nothing. He enjoys living a simple, straightforward and unambitious life. He loves having a wife and a family, but whilst he clearly cares for his daughter, he shows no real regard for the feelings of his wife.

As we see this husband and wife relationship seemingly in its death throes, director Cianfrance uses brief glimpses of the first days and months of Dean and Cindy’s burgeoning relationship to highlight just how far their marriage has tumbled. Meeting by chance at a rest home for the elderly, Dean pursues Cindy, thawing her initial frostiness towards him with his charm and romanticism.

Playing very much along similar lines as Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, but far less extreme in its conflicts, Blue Valentine succeeds at exploring both ends of a romantic relationship so well because it remains true. The conflict between the two protagonists is pitch perfect, played brilliantly by two very talented actors, and you will almost certainly recognise the issues they have with each other from relationships between your friends, your parents, or maybe even closer to home. It is this familiarity, this emotional rawness that makes Blue Valentine so very effective, and affecting.

Cianfrance very perceptibly looks at the randomness of how a new relationship comes about, and shows very clearly how uncertain the future is for any two people, no matter how intense their feelings are for each other. People change, some don’t, and the diverging ideals of two people once so in love leads inevitable to heartbreak. They can live with it, mask it as best they can as Dean and Cindy have clearly done for some time. But this bottling up of repressed frustration and rage can only lead to an explosion in the end. Blue Valentine puts this all up on-screen, with alarming authenticity, and by the end you can’t feel disappointment, you can’t even feel sadness. The inevitability of events renders these feelings moot. Sometimes two people really just are not meant for each other, however much they believed, or wanted to believe, that it was so.

For a first time feature director, to be honest for any filmmaker, Blue Valentine is a fantastic achievement, a masterclass in authentic emotional storytelling. With great performances from both Williams and Gosling, it has to go down as one of the most well crafted releases of the year, and i can fully recommend it. Just one word of caution. It really isn’t a date movie…

Baz_mann – You can follow me on Twitter at

www.twitter.com/baz_mann

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