(Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling, et al / DVD / R / (2010) 2011 / Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Overview: Blue Valentine is the story of love found and love lost told in past and present moments in time. Flooded with romantic memories of their courtship, Dean and Cindy use one night to try and save their failing marriage. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this honest portrait of a relationship on the rocks.
DVD Verdict: 'Blue Valentine' chronicles the breakdown of a relationship, focusing on two blue collar characters, Dean and Cindy (played with an honest intensity by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams). Director Derek Cianfrance constantly flashes back and forth between Dean and Cindy's early courtship and the eventual breakdown of their relationship, after they have a child together (played by an adorable five year old, Faith Wladyka).
Dean is depicted as a high school dropout who begins working for a moving company and later as a painter. He courts Cindy by singing songs on a ukulele and is supportive of her even after she reveals she's pregnant by another man, Bobby, a sadistic jock who beats up the young Dean after he finds out that he's been dating Cindy.
In her younger incarnation, Cindy is an aspiring medical student and is later seen as a nurse in a doctor's office. Cindy's character is even more sketchy. When we first meet her, she's emotionally needy but later when she's 'all grown up', she turns on Dean, simply because he lacks ambition. If Cindy wins no brownie points for her lack of warmth, Dean is positively repulsive after morphing into a love sick puppy dog with an acute alcohol problem. The film's climax takes place at Cindy's place of employment where Dean, completely soused, slugs Cindy's employer in the face, a physician, who promptly retaliates by firing Cindy, who returns home with her husband and demands a divorce.
Blue Valentine features some long drawn-out scenes which in part could have been left on the cutting room floor. One such scene is Dean and Cindy's failed tryst at a tacky, futuristic motel room. Yes, we get the point pretty much right away that Cindy no longer has any sexual interest in Dean but we're forced to endure the gyrations until Cindy calls an end to the couple's uncomfortable session together.
The contrast between the early joy of Dean and Cindy's relationship and the later dissolution is meant to be sad and no doubt it is. But do we and should we really care? There is nothing inherently dramatic in depicting a dissolution of a marriage unless there are some unique and compelling reasons behind it. Blue Valentine provides us with the most simplistic and sketchy of explanations (as previously mentioned, Cindy's perception that Dean lacks ambition and the brutal reality of his unbridled alcoholism).
The Valentine scenarists try hard to provide a psychological context for Cindy's emotional neediness right before her marriage. The explanation is in the form of her churlish, hot-tempered Dad, who is probably the least realized characters in the entire script.
If you're looking for a story of ideas, a la Ingmar Bergman, you will not find it here. Rather, all the plot points are one of the standard melodrama, now adorned in modern accouterments. Director Cianfrance is not without talent--he knows how to extract good performances from his actors and works well with his DP and special effects crew (dig those fantastic closing credits). But ultimately, a story about a depressed couple and dissolution of a marriage does not make for good drama. What's missing is the basic element that these characters lack: ego! [TS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Making of Blue Valentine