Film Review: Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is one of the rare films that elicits a strong emotional response. Some viewers may feel emotionally drained after seeing the film, but it is refreshing for a film to provoke a genuine response in this age of desensitisation.

Dean and Cindy are married with a young daughter. Their current troubled relationship contrasts strikingly with the period in which they first got together…

The main reason Blue Valentine is so effective is that it boasts an excellent script from Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis. The interactions between Dean and Cindy appear very natural. The dialogue is very credible, giving the film a very genuine feel.

Director Derek Cianfrance cross-cuts between the present and the past. This technique works exceptionally well to engage viewers. Blue Valentine begins in the present, offering a glimpse into Dean and Cindy’s lives without too much exposition. Slowly, through the flashbacks, more is revealed about their relationship. This gradual release of detail works well to retain a sense of mystery about the origins of the relationship, as well as the cause of the couple’s difficulties. Not every aspect of Dean and Cindy’s marriage is explored; however Blue Valentine does not intend to cover the whole period, just the beginning and the present day.

Dean and Cindy are complicated and multi-faceted protagonists. This makes them highly believable characters. Although one may be empathised with more than the other, they are both distinctly human in their mannerisms and actions.

The camera work gives the film a subdued atmosphere. There are plenty of hand-held shots and close-ups, which give the impression of intimacy with the characters. The natural colours and lighting contrasts well with the artificiality of the hotel room scenes. Tellingly, it suggests something about the changing nature of Dean and Cindy’s relationship.

Ryan Gosling is fantastic as Dean. He brings a natural charisma to the role, but is equally convincing when depicting the darker side of the character’s personality. Michelle Williams is also excellent as Cindy. There is such a change in her persona from the earlier scenes to the contemporary one, but Williams effectively conveys this. A number of years pass from between the periods, but in each both actors are entirely believable. Much of the film success can be attributed to Gosling and Williams’ fine performances.

Although many films are concerned with marriages and relationships, few achieve the painful realism of Blue Valentine. A truly memorable film.