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Blue Valentine is a drama that follows the story of Cindy (played by Michelle Williams) and Dean (played by Ryan Gosling) who fell in love in the blink of an eye only to fall out of love again 3 years later. Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is an incredibly touching and painful account of how two people who were so madly in love can grow apart in just a few years and how quickly the magic of falling in love can disappear and leave one with an after taste that is both toxic and unforgettable.
Love is mostly far from logical and hard to explain. Why do people fall in love? Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Is it chemistry? Science? Love is one of those things that can give you the happiness everyone yearns for while at the same time being the one thing that can completely tear you to pieces. Blue Valentine explores the journey of Cindy and Dean from the first meeting to the moment when you can’t go back anymore.
Dean and Cindy are a young married couple with a three-year-old daughter. Dean is a part-time house mover and part-time stay-at-home dad whose main purpose in life is his family. He’s not ambitious in any way, having left school early with no qualifications, while Cindy is a full-time nurse and wannabe doctor. She’s the one who doesn’t want to settle and wants to get more out of life than a family and an average working class home in the suburbs. When they first meet, both are carefree, impulsive and passionate. Cindy is a smart young girl, studying to become a doctor and Dean is a fairly average guy looking for the love of his life. Shortly after they start going out, Cindy finds herself pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child, but Dean decides to stay with her and marries her despite being beaten up by her ex and agreeing to raise someone else’s child. Their love is intoxicating, raw, touching and inexplicable. Three years later, they’ve got a beautiful daughter but are both unhappy and start bickering at every opportunity. Dean is a former shadow of himself, with a receding hairline and an overall seedy look, drinking his first beer for breakfast while Cindy is still beautiful but increasingly agitated and frustrated at Dean’s lack of ambition.
Gosling and Williams both deliver an outstanding performance. While Gosling wears his heart on his sleeve, Williams is subtler, at times even reserved. There is also a painful difference between the first scene where they both argue about how their daughter should be raised to the scene where the first get to know each other and spontaneously start dancing and singing on the street. Blue Valentine feels very real, which is helped by the close-up shots the movie uses to get the viewer involved in the intensity of their journey.
Cianfrance shows us how quickly love can turn toxic without any real explanation as to why or when it happened. Love can disappear as fast as it appeared and although people are often still in love with the memory, reality is often a different story. Gosling realises this and tries to go back to the time where they were so madly in love nothing else mattered, but Williams is tired and it’s too late. The film is quite heavy and filled with guilt, though neither of the characters know who to blame and what for. Their marriage seemed like an impulse they acted upon without thinking about what marriage means and what it symbolises.
Although there are a couple of scenes like the motel scene where Dean tries to win Cindy back by having a night without their daughter to have fun and sex and do everything they used to enjoy about being together, which turns the movie into bit of a cliché that wasn’t necessary. The story the film tells is powerful and the acting is strong so there was no need for this scene. Nevertheless Blue Valentine is a raw portrait of love and toxic marriage and definitely worth watching.