The Longing and Loss of a Blue Love
By Jacob Walters ’14, A&L Section Editor
All a romance needs to succeed is two likeable characters. That gives the audience a reason to care about them so that, in the end, the audience’s interest lies in seeing them come together and decide that they were meant for each other. Most romances can’t even accomplish this, and, unfortunately, many of the ones that can aren’t capable of taking those likeable characters and making them feel genuine. This is what a romance really needs to shift from good to great, and this is what “Blue Valentine” has in spades. It’s a movie which defies the expectations of its genre and is all the better for it.

The two central characters and the problems they face feel achingly true to life and the movie is a powerful, effective and affecting experience because of it. However, despite being quite romantic (at times), the movie takes you on a different trip. The events which transpire throughout the movie and the overall arc of the relationship depicted are depressingly heartbreaking. This isn’t what most people want out of a romance. But, in many ways, it’s a movie which anyone who has any desire to fall in love should probably see.

The movie shifts back and forth between the beginning and end of an all-too-human relationship between Dean Pereira (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy Heller (Michelle Williams). It conveys a very honest sense of care and devotion in the scenes depicting the beginning of their relationship, in which the two meet by chance at a home for the elderly where Cindy’s grandmother is staying when Dean happens to be helping an elderly man move in next door. Dean, instantly stricken, returns and finds her again, this time on a bus, and we see that they both share feelings for each other. Complicating matters early on in the relationship are Cindy’s boyfriend and an unplanned pregnancy, but these are hurdles which do not deter the two from getting married. Flash forward a few years and they have a child and a relationship on the rocks. They still care about each other, but they are often frustrated over the trajectory of the relationship, and, in an attempt to rekindle their increasingly diminished flame, Dean decides a visit to a local sex hotel is in order.

Much of the material from the beginning of the relationship is fairly typical for a romance, although it is quality material nonetheless. The two protagonists are likeable and their concern for each other feels real. Although the problems they face are typical for romances, they are effectively presented and there is a genuine sense of concern for the characters. They feel real, and thus we want to see them together and develop an interest in their relationship. There are scenes which are truly heart-warming (the night-time talent show the two give for each other which serves as the movies trailer) and scenes of genuine suspense (an attempted abortion).

Despite the quality of those scenes though, the movie really finds its legs in the scenes representing Dean’s and Cindy’s current relationship. This is where the characters fully come out and, right from the beginning, I felt like I was watching people that I’d known for years. They feel human in a way that no characters who have graced the screen this year have. Their relationship is flawed in a human way as well. It is achingly depressing at times watching these two and the relationship which, whether they like it or not, can’t be fixed. The movie is wise in presenting the relationship in an unbiased manner, not trying to demonize or make you artificially sympathize with Dean and Cindy, nor does it artificially attempt to exacerbate their relationship with movie romance tropes. The movie’s power comes from the fact that these characters are entirely human. Their relationship is frustrating as such because we are so deeply invested in it but know the troubled dynamics of the relationship which any other movie would resolve in a too-neat matter or simply write out of the equation are more complex here, presenting real conflicts which can’t necessarily be resolved. Unfortunately, neat resolutions are often far from the reality of life, and, like it or not, “Blue Valentine” conveys life in a way that few movies do.

The two notable performers, Gosling and Williams, are substantial in their roles, essaying characters with depth. Their performances are gripping, making the characters all the more human. They play their roles to a tee, and it contributes significantly to their humanity. They accomplish a lot with their facial expressions and body movement in particular, and the script gives them dialogues which feel real. There are times when the characters convey frustration better than anyone I’ve seen in a long while. They handle dealing with multiple emotions at once effectively as well. Throughout the film, we are not watching actors; we are watching people.

Despite the quality of the performances, it is still the honesty of the script which shines through and creates the movie that is “Blue Valentine.” Everything in it feels genuine and it, despite the sense of depression which comes with this movie, is refreshing. You can’t expect characters here to work their way out of situations in artificial manners. It’s a movie that people need to see, provided they can handle the heaviness of the material to realize how actual humans should be presented in movies. “Blue Valentine,” more so than any 2010 production, is why I love movies. It grabs you and shows you life for two hours. It doesn’t pull punches, and it forces you to come to terms with the events on screen rather than feeding you what you want to see. It makes you feel for the people in it in a way that so few movies can. It’s honest, real, human. Use whatever word you want, but see “Blue Valentine.”

Issue 15, Submitted 2011-02-16 00:22:12