Blue Valentine (2011)

Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are two names with which my generation is very familiar. People may not know them for their best work, but whatever way people know about them, they are two of the best young actors working today. Michelle Williams gained fame from portraying Jen on the popular television series “Dawson’s Creek”. Ryan Gosling will be familiar to fans of the films “Remember the Titans” as well as “The Notebook”, where he played heartthrob Noah. However, it is the smaller films that have made these two young actors stars in Hollywood. Each has an Academy Award nomination, Williams for “Brokeback Mountain” and Gosling for “Half Nelson”. But they each also have other acclaimed performances in films such as “Wendy and Lucy” and “Lars and the Real Girl”, respectively.

So when these two great actors come together for an unorthodox romance, it is no surprise that each delivers the goods and make “Blue Valentine” a cinematic experience worth checking out. The story is that of Cindy (Williams) and Dean (Gosling). They are a married couple and the proud parents of Frankie, a precious little girl. But there is marital strife which appears difficult for the couple to overcome. However, writer/director Derek Cianfrance decides to avoid the cliché melodrama about a broken marriage, favoring instead to insert the moving love story of these two battered lovers into the main narrative.

It is this move that makes the whole film tick. As tension grows in the relationship, Cianfrance shows the audience the nuance and true love that was brewing when Cindy and Dean first met. These scenes counteract the drama and give the audience mixed emotions, much like the characters on screen have for each other throughout the film. This nuance is further advanced by the moving performances from Williams and Gosling. True to their characters, Williams is much more subtle and broken while Gosling delivers more of an over the top, powerhouse performance while still infusing the tenderness of a man deeply in love.

As an independent film, “Blue Valentine” is not as streamlined and frilly as most big budget Hollywood productions, but the style fits with the story beautifully, creating a very raw and very real setting for such a story to unfold. The use of grainy handheld digital cameras for the flashback scenes, setting them apart from the present day scenes, is a great way to capture the concept of true love in Cindy and Dean, further exploring the perception of love in the starry eyes of young people.

Williams and Gosling are two actors with bright futures worth watching. But writer/director Derek Cianfrance, directing only his second feature length film, may also be a name worth paying attention to on future projects, as the film, in addition to the brilliant performances, is also a success in storytelling. “Blue Valentine” does well in not falling into any romantic or melodramatic holes, choosing instead to blaze its own trail, molding the two together to create a beautiful, yet heartbreaking yarn.

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