Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the Riviera, Santa Barbara, CA.

Blue Valentine is a simple tale of love and marriage gone awry.

The film opens on a working class couple with a child,  and then reverts back in time to when the two first meet, before marriage, responsibility and commitment.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) first meet in a senior retirement home, where she is visiting her aged grandmother while he is across the hall moving in an elderly man.  Dean takes a chance on love at first sight, and gives Cindy his phone number to contact him but she never does.

He works for a moving company while she is a student pursuing a career in the medical profession.  Dean finds a locket that he knows belongs to that same elderly man and he decides to seize the opportunity to return the lost locket and check on Cindy across the hall.

The two begin a romance and a passionate affair, but Cindy is cautious since she recently suffered an ugly break up with another guy.  After discovering that she is pregnant, and suspecting that the baby is of her former beau, Cindy first attempts to abort the baby with Dean’s support and then changes her mind.

Several years later and the two have become exhausted, fragile, and overly sensitive parents of a little girl.  Cindy no longer feels the same passion but instead craves mental and emotional stimulation.  Dean no longer feels desired or appreciated and becomes embittered.

As Cianfrance’s tale unfolds, he uses a series of effective cross-cuts that jump back and forth from present to past, and from Dean’s POV to Cindy’s POV.  The emotion is deep, the acting is raw and the dialogue is sincere.  The film pulls us into the personal world of Dean and Cindy, and we are suspended until the end credits.

Since the disintegration of the marriage is not about infidelity or abuse, it very pointedly asks a question – should one stay in a relationship for the sake of a child, or leave for the sake of that child?  The film does not contain gratuitous sexual situations.  It does show explicit love-making scenes to reveal the initial passion and ultimate demise of the relationship, and for this reason was issued an NC-17 rating.

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