Premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Blue Valentine is a powerfully sad exploration of marriage and the sometimes transient nature of love. The storyline is simple: Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) meet as teenagers and fall hopelessly in love despite their different backgrounds – Cindy is a college student with hopes of being a doctor whilst Dean dropped out of high school and is working for a moving company. Years later (when the story is largely set), the couple are married and have a daughter, Frankie, but it is apparent that they have grown steadily apart. In a spontaneous attempt to rekindle the passion of their youth, Dean takes Cindy to a hotel for the night, but this only highlights their present unhappiness in contrast to their elated past.
Directed and co-written by Derek Cianfrance, who disturbingly resembles Gosling’s character in the film, Blue Valentine maintains a beauty despite the heavy and pervading unhappiness of the characters; Cindy’s impromptu dance as Dean sings Ink Spot’s “You Always Hurt the One You Love” is an example of such beauty and is, in the words of The Observer’s Philip French, ‘almost unbearably poignant’. Both Gosling and Williams give outstanding performances and where the story could meander aimlessly, they give it direction and purpose.
VERDICT: totally absorbing, beautiful yet plaintive. This is not a film to watch if you’re on the verge of a break up or if you’re with your parents (there are a couple of very raw sex scenes).
UNEXPECTED HIGHLIGHT: Ryan Gosling gets naked – if anyone can pull off a receding hairline it’s Ryan.
Hit play to view the trailer: