Dir: Derek Cianfrance. US. 2009. 120 mins.
Can a young married couple’s current relationship troubles be traced back to their blissful courtship? That’s the intriguing question posed by director Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, a heartbreaking romantic drama which skilfully juggles between the couple’s past and present.
With Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as the leads, Blue Valentine will cater to discriminating audiences who appreciate intelligent portrayals of adult relationships. Strong reviews, especially for the performances, will only further assist this film’s chances with art-house crowds.
Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams) are married with a young child (Faith Wladyka), and while they seem content, Cindy’s chance encounter with an old acquaintance (Mike Vogel) brings up old resentments between the couple. As they cope with these feelings, the film occasionally flashes back to the time when Dean and Cindy first met, which offers unexpected clues into why their marriage could be doomed.
By now the use of flashbacks to contrast a couple’s happier past with their miserable present is a familiar technique, but Cianfrance cannily subverts the formula. Dean and Cindy’s present, while showing signs of stress, is still marked by laughter and affection, while their courtship, although clearly filled with ardour, slowly begins in retrospect to reveal its own problems. Subtly but sharply, Blue Valentine realistically illustrates how relationships are a process of constant discovery, with each moment adding unpredictable new dimensions to the love affair.
Gosling and Williams have a dynamic, volatile chemistry perfectly suited to Dean and Cindy’s white-hot attraction. Whether they’re in the throes of puppy-love early in their courtship or unravelling in the present, the characters never stop truly loving each other, which makes their seemingly irreconcilable differences all the more painful.
To sign up for Screen’s weekly Reviews Newsletter with all the week’s new releases, international openings and full festival reviews delivered free to your mailbox every Friday, please click HERE
Incentive Filmed Entertainment
Hunting Lane Films
William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
+ 1 310 285 9000
+ 1 818 783 6060