- 14 Jan 11
Dating couples be warned: this ain’t no rom-com.
In Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance’ second feature, he brings together two of the best and most beautiful actors working today and allows them to fall in love. But far from being an inspiring love story, this contemporary indie drama becomes a painfully raw exercise in anti-romance that may well lead to some very awkward silent car journeys home.
Using a non-linear narrative style, Cianfrance presents us with two different timelines. One follows the disintegration of a marriage between Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling.) As Dean alternates between extremes of vicious aggression and childishly naïve romantic gestures, Cindy remains the ever-impassive pragmatist who proves that indifference can be more hurtful than hatred. In one unflinchingly frank and highly uncomfortable scene, Cindy responds to Dean’s repeated requests for sex by blankly removing her underwear and lying completely still beneath him. As he desperately screams “What, do you want me to rape you?”, she makes no attempt to hide her bored expression as she disgustedly looks around at their seedy motel suite, ironically called ‘The Future Room.’
Cut to the other timeline, which shows the couple on their first date. As Cindy giddily tap-dances to Dean’s earnest crooning of ‘You Always Hurt the Ones You Love’, the characters’ blissfully hopeful flirtations are genuinely touching, but knowing what the future holds adds an ominous tone to even the most affectionate moments.
Though playing characters that become increasingly unlikeable, the two leads are completely mesmerizing. And as Cianfrance shoots the most intimate moments of this couple’s lives in claustrophobically tight shots through doorframes and windows, watching Blue Valentine feels like you’re spying on their entire dysfunctional relationship.
Though difficult and never exactly enjoyable, Cianfrance’s compelling and superbly acted film is still a rewarding and thought-provoking experience. Even if it does make Bridget Jones’ “dying alone and being eaten by Alsatians” nightmare seem like a quite preferable alternative to ever falling in love.