Blue Valentine (2010)

Review by:
Bill Clark

Reviewed by:
On January 28, 2011
Last modified:July 3, 2014


Blue Valentine comes close to working, but the uneven examination of its central couple makes for a depressing and ultimately unsatisfactory experience.

Blue Valentine (2010)

From the “guaranteed to depress” files comes Blue Valentine, writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s exhaustive dissection of a relationship from beginning to end. Put an accent on “end,” because the film spends much of its runtime wallowing in its own misery and piling catastrophe upon catastrophe. Where Cianfrance does succeed, however, is in creating an authentic-feeling couple and getting a pair of superb performances out of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

Blue Valentine begins with the death of the family dog, which is a real good indication of where this thing is headed. We pick up with Dean (Gosling), a blue collar worker, and Cindy (Williams), an assistant at a doctor’s office. Together they are raising young Frankie (Wladyka), but their relationship is strained, to say the least. A night the two spend in a hotel, in a last ditch effort save their union, is interspersed with flashbacks of the good and bad times.

The fundamental problem here is that Dean is made out to be the bad guy pretty much from the beginning. He’s temperamental, yes, but genuinely loves Cindy and Frankie. He holds down a job, provides, and stays with Cindy through a series of unpleasant revelations. The script is so focused on all the misery that the scenes where the two are actually happy seem strained and hard to enjoy. It’s the scenes that show Dean’s undying devotion that ring the truest and most powerful, and a flashback to how the two first met is genuine and touching. It would have been in the film’s best interest to further explore these nuances, as opposed to dwelling on the inevitable.

This is an actor’s movie, and Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both outstanding. Gosling creates a convincingly flawed husband and radiates the feelings of a man completely in love. Even when the script enters preposterous territory (a late scene in the doctor’s office is completely over-the-top), Gosling sells it. Williams is the equal counterpart, playing a woman who comes from a rough background and has made poor decisions. The two make for a very persuasive couple. Also very worthy of mention is young Faith Wladyka, who turns in one of the best child performances seen in years.

But what are we to take away from Blue Valentine? Relationships begin, relationships end. Endless efforts are made to save them, but once one is critically broken, can it really be saved? The film makes no stunning revelations, yet does provide an acting clinic and several powerful moments. Films of this type usually come down to one question: Is it worth the trouble and heartache? Blue Valentine comes close, but the uneven examination of its central couple makes for a depressing and ultimately unsatisfactory experience.


Studio: The Weinstein Company
Length: 112 Minutes
Rating: R on appeal for strong graphic sexual content, language, and a beating; originally rated NC-17 for a scene of explicit sexual content.
Theatrical Release: December 29, 2010 (Limited)
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Written by: Derek Cianfrance & Cami Delavigne & Joey Curtis.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman, Mike Vogel




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