Blue Valentine directed by Derek Cianfrance (Hunting Lane Films and Silverwood Films, rated R. 112 minutes)

Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

The Anti-Reality of the Hollywood Divorce

What kills a relationship? Hollywood typically answers this question in extremes. Too often, a marriage falls apart as a husband is unfaithful or a wife completely changes her personality.
In real life, many relationships end with the passing of time. When people jump into commitments early, the warts and ugly spots of each person creep out and many marriages lose during the test of time.
Sure, some relationships end over the big things so often depicted in Hollywood, but sometimes a marriage dissolves after many small-yet-irksome qualities emerge. With the film, Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance seeks to display a marriage falling apart because of the little things.

Meet the Characters


Blue Valentine portrays the relationship of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a couple working in blue collar jobs in small-town Pennsylvania. With a young daughter named Frankie, the couple struggles with day-to-day family issues.
Photo by Davi Russo
Dropping out of high school, Dean grew up in a broken home where his mother left him during a tender age. With no desire to pursue a career, Dean provides for his family as a house painter. He works eight hours a day and spends the rest of his time enjoying his family. With a crooning voice and a love for music, Cindy believes that Dean could do much more with his life.
Cindy, on the other hand, hails from a different sort of dysfunction. Her parents, despite an obvious deterioration in their marriage, remained together for the sake of their child. As such, Cindy refuses to “stay together for the kids.”
Employed as a nurse, Cindy settled for a working-class career after marrying Dean. During college, her ambition pointed her toward medical school and private practice. Yet, unforeseen circumstances led her to settling down and beginning a family.
While Frankie spends the night with grandpa, Dean and Cindy head to a hotel for a date night with hopes of rekindling the marital flame. This night proves to be the crux of their relational issues as the night unfolds and both Dean and Cindy must deal with their problems.

Acting as Subtlety

Ultimately, Blue Valentine frighteningly depicts an unfolding relationship in realistic terms. Gosling and Williams play their parts with stunning simplicity.
The director, Derek Cianfrance, encouraged Gosling and Williams to live in a rural Pennsylvania house with their child-actor daughter to create the subtle disharmony seen on screen. In fact, Cianfrance went so far as creating off-screen fights between the two in order to make the parts as real as possible.

Cinematrographical Beauty and Realistic Dialogue

Inserted throughout the movie are scenes of Dean and Cindy’s courtship six years earlier. Shot with different film and the stars weighing fifteen pounds lighter, these happy times exhibit the stark contrast between past and present. In perhaps my favorite scene in the movie, Dean strums a ukulele and croons a mournful song as Cindy tap dances on a sidewalk in Brooklyn.
As a counterbalance to this joyous scene, we see Cindy quietly eating dinner with Dean in a hotel room. Softly she proclaims, “You had so much potential.” For her, a blue-collar husband was not her envisioned plan as she heard the melodies of a promising musician.
Interestingly, Dean retorts, “This life was not what I had planned but now that I have it, it is what I want.” In a profound way, each person is fighting against their upbringing. Cindy cowers at the thought of a lifetime with a man she does not truly love. Dean, on the other hand, fights tooth and nail against separation knowing how it personally influenced his childhood.
Just as real relationships often fall apart as time decays the foundations of a marriage, Blue Valentine seeks to display a turbulent relationship through subtlety. With beautiful production, impeccable acting, and realistic dialogue, Blue Valentine is an excellent movie. Although its realism creates a difficult viewing of the movie, its underlying themes make this movie a must see!

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