This is not a “review” per se. I am not attempting to give you plot points and tell you why you should or should not see a film. What I am trying to do with these blogs is “analyze.” I want to absorb my first reactions from the film and tell you about the characters and the story and relate it in some way to our lives. I do not want to focus on the camera movements and editing styles and mise-en-scene, though all of these things may pop up in a review or analysis if extradordinarily important or prominent in some way and must be mentioned to explain or explore the film properly. To really get the most from what is written below, see the film first. All of my blogs on movies are poised in a way which assumes the reader has already seen the film. Thiese blogs are enrichment and discussion.
So I begin by saying this: This film ripped my heart out. It’s fantastic to get to the end of a film and not even want to budge to pop out the DVD or go to the bathroom. Not just yet. It has to sink in for a minute longer. I had to reflect.
“You always hurt the ones you love…”
Academy Award nominated Blue Valentine (starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling) is a tender, intense film which took the director (Derek Cianfrance) 12 years to complete from the writing phase to the final release date. Please see my last blog about how fiction can come from experience, because as I collected some information for this analysis, I learned that Cianfrance really put this film together out of experience. So much so that the “older” Gosling and his pattern baldness is directly copied from Cianfrance’s real head, and the younger Gosling’s aesthetic style and clothing style was mimicked after his own wardrobe from back in the day. Talk about having balls and putting yourself out there. (On another note: this is Ryan Gosling at his best.)
This is a film about unrequited affection, reciprocation, reconciliation, and the feeling that as good as a love can feel in the beginning (and as worth it as it may seem) it may end in a firestorm. You can never tell for sure if it will collapse or stay afloat, and there’s no way to see into the future to be sure. All you can do is hope and try to be a better partner everyday.
Like so many dark dramas similar in tone to Blue Valentine’s (exploring romance in the way of feature-length slow-motion train wrecks which you can’t look away from), Blue Valentine does it in a very honest way. It is by far the most emotionally poignant and honest film I have seen in a long time to take on these themes–especially considering this type of story has been done before.
Many films utilize the back-and-forth cross cutting between the current hellish prediciments where the love is utterly dying and the jumping back to scenes from years ago to tell of how these two came to fall in love. Though it has been done before, both well and poorly, this story seems to fit this mold well. Telling the story chronologically would have worked well enough for this film, and I would be curious to see it, but I do feel that delivering certain parts of the past at very specific and intentional times, when done well, does add something to the narritvie and to the emotional context of certain scenes. It also aids in a unique way the audiences progression of undersatnding these characters and their ambitions or short-comings.
So is Blue Valentine saying all love fleeting, doomed to flicker then fade; or were these two never supposed to be together and did they misread an evening long ago for the beginning of real love? This is a movie of despiration and ignornance — a misundersatnding that loving your spouse wholly or intensely is not the same as being a good spouse. It takes more than sweet sentiments and words. It takes actions.
I also felt while watching this movie that the direction (for obvious reasons) fell into the category of sympathy for Dean (Gosling) more so than Cindy (Williams). And while this may or may not have been intentional, I understand how the director with his life being so saturated into the film in one way or another impacted the audience’s ability to not “root” for Cindy the same way we do for Dean. We feel Dean, for all his fuck-ups, is at least rying and is gettign the short end of the stick from someone who is emotionally crippled in someway and it’s not fair for Dean. I don’t know if that line of thought is fair to Cindy’s character, and I just think a lot of the story makes Cindy out to be the one not fully trying to save the realtionship and therefore we all say: “Aw. Poor Dean.”
When Dean told Cindy all he really wanted to be was a husband and a father, it was the final nail in the coffin. The first nail was probably agreeing to raise another man’s child. His ambition was lost with his charisma and their newly discovered sexuality. Where Cindy desired both of them to reach for the stars, he was resigned to a life he settled for. He would never say this, but she knew, and because she knew that she was partially responsible for this talented, promising man to give-up on his aspirations, she hated him and herself.
I would now like to talk about some things I did not see in other reviews and feel are important to explore. Not just in Blue Valentine, but in content of today’s films in general: Sex. Oral Sex.
Through disappointment and rejection, Dean is constantly trying to give what he can of himself to Cindy, and since he did not complete high school, he is limited in his offerings. These offereings often end up being in the form of physical affection, in both publicly acceptable kisses and more intimate endeavors. What I would like to discuss is the “Man” going down on girl multiple times in the film. It interested me as film and media studies graduate because too often in films it is the girl orally gratifying the man, and the truth is that in the real world it is often give and take. In the healthy relationships, anyway. However, perhaps that is not true of our culture anymore if we are so frequently exposed to the woman as an object. The internet and HBO and Rated-R films have shown audiences that it is always the female being subservient to the male. Maybe people in the world think that it is a one-way street in regards to certain foreplay, but I would bet that the reality is this: many would be shocked by the amount of satisfaction which both partners feel from certain reciprocations. Finally, I will say that it was interesting that Dean was the only one seen doing these actions; never Cindy. Furthermore, he always seemed more than happy. I thought that was counter-culture of the mold set by Hollywood and, for some strange reason, a lovely little thing to add. The truth is that men do this to women when being intimate, not all, but some, and why should we be so afraid of showing men doing it to women and so unafraid of showing women doing it to men?: A great conversation that falls right along with female vs. male nudity in society/entertainment and which one has the majority. Take a wild guess.
The whole abortion room scene was incredible to watch and certainly shows what it would really be like. I’m glad that a movie was bold enough to show the interations and jargon used in such situations to really let men and women know what it really is like to have to have such a procedure. Maybe they will think twice about contraception and safe sex when realizing what one of the real life outcomes can be. It was anxious for Cindy in the scene and conveyed equal anxiety to me. Truly affective and viceerally rendered. I never once doubted any of the characters spoken lines or faces. Not once.
Dean says near the beginning of the film to a co-worker in a furniture moving company something about love at first sight being like hearing a song and just having to dance. You don’t know why, you can’t explain it, but you just have to dance. I like that. And as far a worth remembering quote from Cindy, I leave you with this: “think about what you say instead of saying what you think all the time.” I think all realtionships could benefit from such adivce.
Love is messy. Love is complicated. Love is imperfect. That is love.
And it can’t be stagnant. We gotta grow. Both together and as people. Dean wasn’t. People are complicated. So was it worth it? If it ended like that, was the love worth it for the early times when it was good? Cindy ended it. Was it for the kid? Will it improve their lives in the long run? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s love. That’s life. There aren’t always answers. There are rarely answers.
(Movie here. Buy on Amazon.)