Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Blue Valentine

Film #228

THE PLOT

The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

Year 1, Day 228

BEFORE: After a day off yesterday to try and catch up on my reading for ethics (I’m a slow reader, ok), movie marathon is back with another romantic film, this time a drama - Blue Valentine. It features the return of Ryan Gosling (last seen in Crazy Stupid Love) and the debut of Michelle Williams. You may have heard about some controversy regarding its release a few years ago. The film was originally given an NC-17 rating but after an appeal by the Weinstein’s, the MPAA issued an R-rating for the same cut of the film.

(Revised 2/13: so it turns out this week was a bit busier than I expected. The original one day break which I mentioned above turned into a three day break. But I should be all caught up on work now and ready to hunker down for a bunch of movies coming up.)

AFTER: Watching Blue Valentine was an atypical experience for me and one which I do not recommend or condone. Alas, due to forces beyond my control, my viewing of this film was divided across three days (the first half on Monday and the rest today). Keep this in mind for the rest of the review as it may affect some of my opinions. I think it will still be accurate to a normal viewing but just know this is highly irregular.

All that being said, overall I very much enjoyed Blue Valentine. This film is unlike any of the others I’ve seen in this chain. Not only is it an independent film, and therefore more reliant on story/characters than action, but it was also a much more emotional film. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple living their lives just like normal people. They have a kid Frankie (Faith Wladyka), Cindy is a nurse, and Dean works for a moving company. It is very much a down-to-earth type of situation, something you would expect to happen in urban/suburban life. What the film has going for it is some terrific dialogue (in that it seems very natural and fitting for the situations) and the acting. Gosling and Williams are great individually, and more importantly, together. You can see the love, and the loss of love, between them just as easily as you could see a person waving. Their emotions and feelings come across instantaneously and effortlessly; it’s as if this were taking place in real life.

Where my excitement for this film starts to wane is in the structure. Blue Valentine uses flashbacks, going between the present day when Dean and Cindy are middle-aged (probably 40s, 50s) and the past when they first met (younger; probably late 20s to mid 30s). It wasn’t horrible and I didn’t feel as if it took away from the film at all, but I wonder how necessary it was. The ending of the film was beautifully done intercutting both time periods together seamlessly (it reminded me of the baptism scene in The Godfather - minus the temporal changes). But for the rest of the film, the first half especially, there wasn’t anything about it that gave me a good reason to accept it. Again, it didn’t detract from the film but it left me wondering why couldn’t they just tell the story linearly.

Finally I’ve finished the film and even though I was forced to spread it out over the course of three days (really, do not try this at home) I still came away from Blue Valentine feeling as if I watched something momentous. It was a really powerful film because you could see the raw emotion coming from Dean and Cindy and it wasn’t all positive; far from it. There are many sad moments in this film (it’s a bit depressing actually) but at the same time, based on other media (no personal experience), it feels faithful to what would happen which brings it to a level that many films can’t reach. Taking the minor complaint about the flashbacks (besides the ending, that was perfectly done) into consideration, I would highly recommend giving this a watch. And please do so in one sitting. This has been a public service announcement.

RATING: 4 out of 5