Friday, October 22, 2010

Blue Valentine E-Card A Relationship Killer.

Blue Valentine

Yesterday I talked about the silliness behind Blue Valentine getting hit with an NC-17 rating, which at the time this review was written, was under appeal by The Weinstein Company who hold the distribution rights. So it is only fitting that talk about my views on the film itself. Directed by Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine is an intimate and honest look at what makes couples fall in love and fall apart.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) works his blue-collar job and takes pleasures in the simple things in life, mainly beer and his family. Although rough around the edges, Dean is a romantic at heart. Dean’s wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) is a nurse who is looking to further her career. Cindy is growing tired of Dean’s childlike ways and the distant between them begins to surface. In a last ditch effort to save their marriage Dean and Cindy decide to have a weekend away for just the two of them. Yet the trip hits a major bump in the road when Cindy runs into an old boyfriend, Bobby (Mike Vogel), at the store.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Blue Valentine was my favourite film at TIFF this year. In many ways it felt like I was watching the fictional version of another great film I saw at TIFF, Allen King’s A Married Couple. Some will liken the film to Revolutionary Road, but I think it is more along the lines of François Ozon’s brilliant 5X2 more than anything else. Still, make no mistake Blue Valentine is a film that charts its own path. The reason I allude to 5X2 is because of the way time is manipulated in the film and the secrets which the manipulation reveals.

Blue Valentine continually jumps back and forth between the present and the past. Cianfrance gives equal weight to both the couple’s happier times in the past and their current turbulent state. As the film progresses, key details from past relationships are revealed as well as the ramifications they have on the present. This not only impacts the characters in the film, but how the viewer reacts to them as well. The film, similar to relationships themselves, is never as clear cut as you think it will be.

The key to Blue Valentine’s success is in the astonishing performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Gosling brings so many layers to the role that you wish the film went on for another two hours just so you can delve into Dean’s mind a bit more. The thing that I loved about Gosling’s portrayal is the fact that Dean never goes to the level you expect him to physically. This is most evident in the “infamous NC-17 inducing” scene. Despite the amount of times Dean is prodded, he always keeps his values in check even when he has reached his breaking point. Michelle Williams is equally mesmerizing as Cindy. It is only in the flashbacks that the cracks in Cindy’s character begin to show. At first it appears that she is just fed up with Dean’s immaturity, yet there are much deeper issues at play. The fact that I could not stop wondering where the characters ended up after the film was over is a testament of the wonderful work of both actors.

Blue Valentine does not hit theatres until December 31st and hopefully the NC-17 rating will be re-evaluated by then. This is a film that needs to be seen for both the story and the performances. It may have taken Derek Cianfrance 11 years to get the financing together for Blue Valentine, but it was worth it in the end. It was my favourite film at TIFF; and is one of my favourite films this year.


  1. would really like to watch this, keep hearing so many good things about it, and your review has more than sold it to me, great post

  2. Looking forward to this movie, Ryan Gosling is such a fantastic performer. Let's hope they rescind that NC-17 movies because unfortunately, a movie that isn't seen is a movie that doesn't exist.

  3. @Dempsey - Try and seek this one out when it is released. Only time, and the NC-17 rating issue, will tell if it plays in 3 theatres or 2000 theatres.

    @Castor - If they do not rescind the NC-17 rating, than this film has no chance in theatres. It may get some life on DVD but not enough to get a good word of mouth going.

  4. How does the NC-17 rating affect a movie's distribution exactly? Is there any chance 'Blue Valentine' will receive something resembling a theatrical release? I have heard only good things about this movie.

  5. @Edgar - Many major markets in the states will refuse to show NC-17 films in their theatres. Canada will show the film, but we only make up a one or two percent of the total box office. So regardless of the star power, a film that would normally open in 2500 theatres (and make 15-30 mil) only gets released in 15-20 theatres.

    If the NC-17 rating is changed to an R then Blue Valentine should get a decent release in time for the Oscar voting period. The film will not be a blockbuster financially, but should do as well as Precious and The Hurt Locker in regards to pre-oscar nomination revenue.

  6. Hi CS, I just saw the film (and I'm writing my review right now) and it's #3 in my Best of 2010 (so far) with Gosling and Williams at the top of my Actors/Actresses list.

    It's funny you mentioned 5x2 by Ozon (whom I'm a fan of) though Blue Valentine is more conventional. Still, I agree with you with how similar it was in terms of manipulation and transitions.

    This was a real surprise and I love the way it was presented.

  7. @thevoid99 - Glad you enjoyed the film. I will have to stop by your site and read your thoughts on it. While more conventional than 5x2, I liked how the lead male characters in both films were not as evil as you initially think they are. There are so many layers to the characters that nothing is ever simply black and white.

  8. Not only are the leads amazing, but the script is perfectly hard-hitting, with some of the heaviest stuff I have seen in the past 2 years. It really does have you second guess your whole idea on love, and whether or not it's worth it after all.

  9. @CMrok93 – Yep the script was top notch for this film. I am interested in seeing what things from the original script did not make the final cut. I know that certain scenes, like Gosling threatening to jump over the bridge, were improvised.


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