Love is not always romantic. When the emotions run too high, mistakes can be made and people can get hurt. Then there are repercussions. Blue Valentine is a film void of hope no matter the time. There are two narratives in the film. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play Dean and Cindy whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Then intercut is the two of them when they were younger and they first met.
It isn’t cruel juxtaposition, but everything constantly reminds about where it is going. In the present they have a little girl named Frankie. Cindy has an exhausting job as a nurse and Dean is a lazy painter. The tension is high and everybody always seems angry.
When they were younger things weren’t exactly easier. Cindy’s grandmother is dying and her boyfriend is a complete jerk. Dean often talks wistfully about love at first sight and pursues it when he first sees Cindy while he’s working. There are plenty of character hints on why things will not work out.
If this was a linear story there could be a tease of whether or not this could work. Instead the film presents this damning sense of inevitability and that’s what makes this feel like an incomplete venture. Jumping back and forward in time doesn’t always add something new to the characters or story so it feels more like an interruption instead of clarity.
The real reason this movie seems to have been made was to chance to have amazing performances. Michelle Williams is wonderful. She has the real arc of the film and because of that she can show of her subtly and raw emotions. Ryan Gosling is a very fine actor and he creates a very realized character that is a variant of the typical deadbeat husband. Unfortunately because of the inevitability factor, he feels stuck without being able to really move forward.
The stark realism works in a lot of key scenes, but sometimes it becomes a bit conventional. The metaphorical opening doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the movie and the endless chain of extreme close-ups eventually stops providing nuances but a reminder this is still an artificial creation.
Luckily the performances give that amazing sense of humanity that is needed. Just watching this movie for the train wreck aspect doesn’t cut it. The real interest comes from seeing two fantastic actors handle difficult material. There won’t be a Saraband to this Scenes of a Marriage, but at least there’s comfort knowing these two could handle that with high expertise.