Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Case for Valentine's Day Blues

I had heard some pretty rave things about Blue Valentine, an indie-ish film starring the always awesome Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Actually, not only did they star in this film, they were also credited as being producers, which possibly gave them even more reason to give some excellent performances. And there is no doubt that they most definitely did.

They play Cynthia and Dean, a couple at a critical time in their marriage, and the movie follows them struggling through this time, as well as providing flashbacks on how they got together. Describing the plot in any more detail would unfortunately be giving a lot away, as there is not really much to the story. But the story is so emotional and at times raw that it is never boring, not even at a two hour running time.

The film can be uncomfortable to watch. I was sitting near a man who I thought had brought his mother to see the film, and during the more graphic love scenes, I thought I detected a distinct air of discomfort from that quarter, though whether it was from her or from him, I couldn't rightly say.

The film for the most part follows Cynthia, and while the viewer definitely feels for her character, I have to say I felt like I was more on Dean's "side" of the relationship. But the fact it wasn't clear cut, that the characters were not just black and white goodie and baddie, made the whole thing feel grittily real. Unlike Black Swan or True Grit or even The Kings Speech, this is a film about a very specific time and a very specific place in the lives or (relatively) ordinary people. There are no artistic or historical backdrops against which the story unfolds. It's mainly about two people and focuses on their problems, which may seem small and insignificant in comparison with some other stories, but means the world to these people and others in similar situations. It is small, unspectacular, graphic, moving, and real - for fiction, that is.

The only thing that knocked me slightly about the film was the ending. Perhaps I was a bit naïve to expect the film to end with everything resolved (I am trying to be deliberately vague here), but that didn't stop me from wanting it nonetheless.

So, in a league completely separate to all those other Oscar contenders, I definitely liked this film. That said, it is not one I would necessarily recommend to everyone. It has some incredible performances, some heart wrenching scenes and others that are beautiful to behold, but it is an intense movie that doesn't let special effects or subplots or miscellaneous characters interrupt the tale it is trying to tell. And if that kind of film appeals to you, then by gum, this is definitely one to watch.

Verdict: Blue Valentine is an amazing film showcasing the powerful acting talents of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. It's a "slice of life" film that rewards those who love good actors dealing with meaty roles, but the weight of what they undergo will probably not appeal to everyone. 8 valentines out of 10.

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