Blue Valentine (2010) Directed by Derek Cianfrance
It's been an especially strange start to the New Year. We didn't celebrate as normal. We mainly hung around the house waiting for our baby to be born. We're still waiting, so in some ways the baby's arrival has overshadowed getting on with normal life. I made no New Year's resolutions, paid little heed to what was happening elsewhere, rarely went out. We've just been living in our little cocoon. I'm still stuck in the cocoon and in 2011. Reading the previous year's best or worst of whatever can keep you grounded in the year you're leaving. Retrospection can effect one's own sense of time and space. I got lost in it this year.
That withdrawn world can become overbearing for some people, it can obscure rational thought. To some degree Dean and Cindy, the main characters of Blue Valentine have created an isolationist environment that leaves little space for growth, in their respective relationship or outside lives. Possessive attention and the old ways just aren't doing it for Cindy anymore. Dean, whose days are increasingly spent with a bottle, can't see the distance his drinking creates. In some ways Blue Valentine's characters could be a modern update of the Richard Yates way of loving. However, in cinematic terms, Blue Valentine is a far better picture than the Yates-based Revolutionary Road, although both pictures share similar themes if not period.
Told in flashback, the story of how Dean and Cindy fell in love with each other touched familiar nerves.
Director Cianfrance imbues Blue Valentine with a fine sense of atmosphere, which leaves one with an almost eerie feeling that something awful is going to happen. Yes, Blue Valentine is intense, but there is humor here too. Essentially, the film works as a romance due to the extra yard the actors go, the performances are great. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling convince as the lovers here, there is a naturalness to their being which heightens the impact of the smallest details. This felt like a valediction, and in doing so Blue Valentine reveals some basic truths. This picture was close to perfect.
Very rarely nowadays do I come across a movie that speaks to me personally, a movie that comes into the living room from the screen and stays there even after the credits. Blue Valentine had such staying power and effect. I was a little afraid to watch it because for some reason I took it so personally from the first minutes onwards. For the first half an hour I was afraid someone will die and I didn't want to deal with that loss. No one died, but a relationship did. The descent from romance to gradual loss of connection was pictured very realistically – and this time I'm talking about an emotional reality, not a historical one.
Emotional honesty and rawness on this level is rare in movies. It's rare in books too. It's not easy to achieve a sense of the real experience between two people. Intimacy is difficult to picture. Somehow Blue Valentine managed to draw the viewer in by giving lots of detail and at the same time not trying to explain everything. Michelle Williams plays her part with the same fragility as she had in Brokeback Mountain. She might be my favorite actress of the moment. I have no passion for Ryan Gosling, but he is very believable as the romantic young lover and husband who battles with alcoholism among other things.
It continues to baffle me what romance means – what it means to me and what it means in general terms. Why are we still so obsessed with romance over a hundred years after Romanticism ended and Modernism and Post-modernism supposedly opened our eyes into seeing a reality?
I guess love itself is not possible without the acceptance of loss. Romance is somewhat married to this loss that looms in the shadows. Romance is made of all things romantic; falling madly in love, accepting the other one with their imperfections, rabbit sex, more sex, dramatic gestures, marriage vows, rings (that can be thrown in the bushes for emphasis in arguments), having kids, taking daring uncalculated leaps of faith... Romantic gestures may seem irrational and unnecessary when the result of surrendering oneself to love leads to inevitable loss, but I think it is precisely that awareness of loss that necessitates and justifies romance (and the silly gestures).