BLUE VALENTINE

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine chronicles the wretched descent of a loving, unplanned marriage into the ninth circle of domestic Hell. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are, respectively, Dean, a working-class stiff, and Cindy, his doctor wife. The film opens with a sense of playfulness undercut by deep, dark tension. The film then precariously balances these two unique tones for just under two hours. Observing in almost painful detail as this ordinary Pennsylvania couple attempts to cling to some semblance of the love they once shared while enduring its very death rattle, co-writer/director Cianfrance, making the leap from TV, short and feature documentaries creates, with his first foray into dramatic narrative since his 1998 debut Brother Tied, an indelible portrait of the disintegration of love and respect between two people whose improbable connection started out so promisingly. Beginning first with their union in the middle of a long, painful downward spiral, Cianfrance intercuts the present with key moments from the couple’s past; paradoxically, the past is grainy and ugly-looking even as it is relatively happy-seeming, while the present appears in bold, beautiful cinematography even as the content is, at times, borderline repulsive. Thematically and stylistically, one could be reminded a bit of Francois Ozon’s 5×2 (2005), without the Memento-esque backwards narrative progression. Between the two lead performances and the story they inhabit, this is one of the year’s most surprisingly powerful films.

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine chronicles the wretched descent of a loving, unplanned marriage into the ninth circle of domestic Hell. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are, respectively, Dean, a working-class stiff, and Cindy, his doctor wife. The film opens with a sense of playfulness undercut by deep, dark tension. The film then precariously balances these two unique tones for just under two hours. Observing in almost painful detail as this ordinary Pennsylvania couple attempts to cling to some semblance of the love they once shared while enduring its very death rattle, co-writer/director Cianfrance, making the leap from TV, short and feature documentaries creates, with his first foray into dramatic narrative since his 1998 debut Brother Tied, an indelible portrait of the disintegration of love and respect between two people whose improbable connection started out so promisingly. Beginning first with their union in the middle of a long, painful downward spiral, Cianfrance intercuts the present with key moments from the couple’s past; paradoxically, the past is grainy and ugly-looking even as it is relatively happy-seeming, while the present appears in bold, beautiful cinematography even as the content is, at times, borderline repulsive. Thematically and stylistically, one could be reminded a bit of Francois Ozon’s 5×2 (2005), without the Memento-esque backwards narrative progression. Between the two lead performances and the story they inhabit, this is one of the year’s most surprisingly powerful films.

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