Review: Blue Valentine (2010)

Derek Cianfrance directs Blue Valentine, an exacting, achingly distressing look at the complexity of a marriage and its steady dissolve.

The narrative unfolds in a non-linear fashion over two timelines as it tracks the burgeoning romance between Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams), and its eventual breakdown.

The action flicks back and forth, transposing the bright optimism of their young romance – each yearning for one another’s veracity – against the buried anguish and turmoil the dissolve has lead to.

Gosling’s Dean, through flashbacks, is seen as a charming, caring guy, while Williams’ Cindy is an intelligent, wholesome girl attracted to Dean’s fun-loving nature – beautifully captured in a scene where Dean’s playing a ukulele as Cindy dances along.

Their personalities age with the turbulent marriage, Gosling undercuts his characters’ charm with a frightening anger and eruptiveness. Williams’ contained performance as the older Cindy exudes despair and hopelessness, surmising her feelings towards her changed husband.

Cianfrance beautifully transposes the two different time periods with pitch-perfect direction. He uses penetrating camera angles and subdued lighting to represent the turmoil the relationship has become, while intercutting this with bright, snappy flashbacks to convey the puppy-love beginnings.

The film is a deeply visceral experience, pulling you from one emotion to another as it skips so dramatically from the giddy hopes of young love to the painful sorrow of this union’s death throes.

Grizzly Bear’s stripped back tracks are used to great avail as the films core soundtrack, further adding to the emotional integrity this film boasts.

Equally, in the scene where Dean sing’s “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” and Cindy dances along, the emotional devastation set to behold the troubled pair is hinted as subtly, yet devastatingly so.

Blue Valentine is an emotionally affecting, raw and impeccably acted portrait of a doomed marriage, making brilliant use of the complex, non-linear narrative structure, gaining complete control over the audiences emotions from start to finish.

A breathtakingly real piece of filmmaking from a talented up-and-coming director.

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