Film Review: Blue Valentine

Before Blue Valentine went to theaters, a friend of mine sent me the trailer to watch. I wasn’t sure what the plot was–a gritty modern day love story–but I knew people would see it since it stars Ryan Gosling (who plays Dean) and Michelle Williams (who plays Cindy). Despite hearing praise for the film and it getting several nominations, I went to a showing with indifference. I entered the film with no opinions and I left the film speechless due to feeling inundated with thoughts and an abundance of mixed emotions. Now several weeks after having seen the film, I still occasionally think about it so I’ve decided that it’s time for me to finally peel back my thoughts.

Perhaps the reason I can’t shake the film is because it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending andهتbecause it seems so real and relative. I think it really churns up the dirt on a question that has been lingering but hasn’t been tackled to this extent in a film: How can you trust your own feelings when they change? How can you love someoneهتthen grow apart while living with them? In many movies we have seen couples struggling to maintain relationships over a distance. The couple struggles to remain a part of each other’s life when they aren’t able to spend it doing things together. But in Blue Valentine, being in close proximity does nothing to strengthen Dean and Cindy’s connection to one another.

After seeingهتBlue ValentineهتI had a discussion with my movie companion. While I don’t frequently have sit-down discussions afterهتthe movies, my friend and I both felt the need to digest the heavy film. His opinion is that Cindy is to blame for the failed marriage because Dean clearly loves her, loves being a dad to “”their”” daughter (biologically, Dean is not the real father), and wants to stay together.

I, on the other hand, think it was a mutual unintentional destruction of the marriage.هتEven though it is admirable that Dean is such a good father to a daughter that technically isn’t even his and he still has so much love for Cindy, I can understand why Cindy desires more. There is a scene in the movie where Cindy asks Dean if he ever thinks about wanting more (you can see what she’s implying).هتDean and Cindyهتgot married and had a kid at a young age which obviouslyهتre-routed their livesهتfrom their previous career aspirations. But flash forward, and Cindy is busting her butt working long hours as a nurse and trying to rise in her field while Dean is a house painter (and arguably somewhat of a bum) with no self-ambition. You can see thatهتCindy is becoming increasingly turned off by Dean’s content with being nothing other than a family man. Additionally, as the film oscillates from the past to the present, the viewer can see how Dean was attractive and charming in his youth,هتand how his looks have deteriorated over the years.

Is it wrong to want more or something different after you have made a big life decision? Is Cindy being selfish because she should be grateful to have a husband that loves her and wants to be a good father? Should she feel obligated to stay with Dean to keep the family together even though she doesn’t love him anymore?

I don’t think Dean is entirely faultless for the breakup either. He has a temper, and a good example of this is when he shows up drunk to Cindy’s work at the end of the film to start a fight with her. Not only is it in public, it is her place of work. That is not acceptable under any circumstance and could have possibly cost her her job she was working so hard at. Arguably, Cindy may have instigated the incident when she left the hotel without waking up passed-out Dean consequently leading him to have to take a bus back. Needless to say, I don’t think it’s fair to take sides. Either way, the movie presents an ominous reality that love isn’t always forever. It’s saddening to see how much Dean and Cindy were in love when they could hardly keep their hands off each other to how Cindy can hardly even stand to be touched by Dean. Their love seems so tarnished in the present-day shots. It’s quite heartbreaking to watch.

One thing

I wish the film would have touched on more is the implications of aهتyoung pregnancy. When Cindy went to the doctor she said she started having sex in her early-teens and that she had slept with over twenty people. Where were her parents when she was out sleeping around? She lived under their roof. Cindy may not have had a perfect relationship with her family, but she was certainly on speaking terms with them. I found it odd that the parents reaction to Cindy getting pregnant was never shown or even mentioned in addition to them not being present when Dean and Cindy tied the knot.

Blue Valentine tells a beautiful yetهتdepressing story of the blossoming of a relationship juxtaposed withهتits demise. I love the films ability to move forward while integrating flashbacksهتof the past. It is well-done. One aspect in which I judge a film is whether or not I’ll be able to remember it months or years after seeing it, and this is one of those films that I think I will continuously reflect on. I highly recommend it, even to guys.هتIt is definitely not your typical predictable,هتcornyهتlove story.