When I watch an action movie, its so that I can get pumped up and excited. When I watch a horror movie, its so that I can be scared and have an excuse to turn the light on later that night when I go to the bathroom. When I watch a comedy, its so that I can laugh and quote them to others to look funnier. When I watch sports underdog movies, its so that I can feel good about life. So is it weird then, that when I watch depressing dramas, its so that I can enjoy being depressed?
The beauty of Blue Valentine is that even though it highlights the highs and lows of love, it never glamorizes them. The movie starts out with Dean and Cindy in a normal unhappy marriage. The two don’t communicate properly or show affection. As we see the characters deal with shitty circumstances with shitty decisions that get equally as shitty reactions that make everyone knee deep in shit, we also get to see how these two lovebirds got to their current situation.
Gosling and Williams deliver equally great performances at both stages of their relationship. The two create sparks as they flirt with each other and realize each is what the other needs at this point in their life. Cindy needs the affection that Dean has and needs to give to someone.
As the two grow older, they grow more distant. I don’t know if it is because I am a man or tend to be very giving in relationships, but it seems to me Dean is the ‘good guy’ or sympathetic one. Cindy is the one who has fallen out of love and makes it harder for Dean, who hasn’t. The film shows a very lopsided deterioration of love, but it also covers its track by having Cindy’s Grandmother express that sometimes we just fall out of love for no reason.
So then, why is this movie ultimately one of the most depressing movies you’ll ever see? Well if you’re like everyone else who has grown up on Disney and Hollywood movies, you believe in ‘Love At First Sight’. Or at least ‘True Love’. Hopefully we’ve all experienced it. However, with that we probably have all experienced breaking up. What sucks is that either A) you have to break up with someone because you have fallen out of love and therefore are probably going to hurt them in some way even if you don’t mean to or B) you are going to get hurt because even though you didn’t do anything wrong your partner has fallen out of love with you. Either way, no one is really to blame. It just happens. That’s the message of the movie that is most depressing. Sometimes life is just shitty and we can’t blame anyone for it. Just get hurt by it.
One thing that can be a little distracting in Valentine is the camera. There are a couple of handheld shots that are just too shakey and some shots that seem unnecessarily close. I get the movie is trying to be intimate but just being super close to your actors isn’t the only way to show that. Its easy to tell that the Director, Derek Cianfrance, got his start in documentaries.
The only other distracting thing in this movie is Faith Wladyka as Frankie, one of the most adorable kids ever put on film. Sometimes its easy to like a kid in a film just because they are a kid but lets not forget that its also easy to find them suepr duper annoying since most kids can’t act. Faith effortlessly makes her character a very good reason why the two have stayed together for so long.
No one goes into a relationship anticipating how it will end. Yet in this movie we see the end in all its ugliness. Words are said that can’t be taken back and things are done that can’t be undone. And while the movie makes it so that there is no real ‘bad guy’ per se, its clear Cindy is the one who has fallen out of love, as stated before.
But I would like to have seen it why. We get to see the end of the marriage. Its clear to me that this is indeed the end as the movie symbolically ends on Dean walking away from Cindy. But we don’t get to see the end of love. At the beginning it seems as though Cindy is already out of love with Dean and just going through normal everyday life. Its only until she is pushed to her limits does she really start to let her true feelings be known.
What I did like though is that while Cindy does fall out of love, even though we may not exactly get why, she doesn’t cheat on her husband. She is given two opportunities: her Liquor Store reunion with ex-Boyfriend/Baby Daddy Bobby and her semi-skeazy boss. But she isn’t a bad person, just no longer in love.
Perhaps another viewing or so will show more about the process of falling out of love and how it happens. Its not an easy thing to show but it is an interesting one.
In Conclusion: A movie that is just as much about falling out of love as it is falling into it, Blue Valentine boasts of great performance and terrific execution. You can admire the movie’s strengths as it shows us its characters weaknesses. You can leave the theater happy you’re depressed.
Final Grade: A-