DVD Review: Blue Valentine

Directed By Derek Cianfrance
Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman and Mike Vogel



Blue Valentine attracted a heap of controversy upon release in the US when it nearly got tagged (unfairly) with the dreaded NC-17 rating – the death knell for any movie hoping to find its way into major multiplexes – for an explicit sex scene. Though it’s certainly a depressing and uncomfortable moment in the film, it’s not an especially graphic one, and is outmatched by the stark and unflinching view of everyday married life for a couple whose apparent fairytale has grown bitter as their relationship falls apart.

Dovetailing the present and past together, the film shows the bitter, irreparable cracks in a couple’s marriage start to worsen while detailing the tender, passionate beginnings of their relationship. There’s a hugely bittersweet aftertaste to the flashback structure; it’s impossible not to root for the two to get together as we see incredibly sweet, inherently charming blue collar Dean (Ryan Gosling) wooing the girl of his dreams (Michelle Williams), before reminding ourselves that the spark of their love will inevitably get snuffed out. Equally sobering is seeing that the problems that will sink their marriage are subtly evident from day one, masked only by the rose-tinted glasses of young love. Dean’s playful, boyish charm is endearing during the early days of their romance, but after years without ambition or progression on his part that immaturity becomes an anchor around Cindy’s neck as she’s stuck raising two kids instead of one.
.
.

.
.
The film has the tough task of exposing us to a relationship rife with resentment and animosity and still make its characters likeable, or at least relatable or sympathetic. The film skews a little too unbalanced towards loving manchild Dean in the sympathy stakes, showing him to be a genuinely adoring father (even if he does use being around his daughter as an excuse to embrace his immaturity) and a romantic, sensitive person. It’s tough not to feel for Cindy, though, as we see Dean’s belligerence creep out, turning minor comments into barbed arguments, promising change but never wanting or delivering it. There’s a palpable tension to every present-day scene that they share, the kind which any child of divorce will be all too familiar with.

The two actors handle it all phenomenally well, too, tackling tough emotional material while also taking on the challenge of playing their characters at different ages. Gosling might have the slightly easier role, sporting drab glasses and a cut-in receding hairline to help maintain the illusion, but Michelle Williams shows the different ages of Cindy entirely with her eyes and demeanour. Through her performance we see a stark, heartbreaking contrast between younger Cindy, lively and alluringly aloof, and her older counterpart, weary and embittered. It’s a phenomenal performance that never feels like one; the acting on display in Blue Valentine feels less like performers playing roles than it seems like two real people living their tragically broken lives. It’s a stunning showcase for two amazing actors at the height of their craft.
.
.

.
.
Blue Valentine isn’t a feel-good romance by any stretch of the imagination, and you’ll probably want to have a more sappy rom-com handy to watch right after to make the landscape of love seem a lot less bleak. But while it’s not always a pleasant experience, it is a genuine one, and director Derek Cianfrance casts a raw and unflinchingly realistic eye on the relationships that just don’t work out, offering a sometimes beautiful, often sad and always powerful counterpoint to the happy endings we’ve grown so accustomed to in movies about love.
.
.

.
.



The DVD for Blue Valentine boasts an attractive transfer and a modest array of special features.

Director Derek Cianfrance and co-editor Jim Helton provide an audio commentary that’s a little dry, but anecdotal and informative, covering the logistics of filming, filming techniques and performances while pointing out some fun facts – all the boxed up furniture and stuff that Dean is lugging around during his moving job is actually cinematographer Andrij Parekh’s stuff, who happened to be moving at the time of the shoot, while Dean’s workmates are the actual moving guys.

There’s a selection of four deleted scenes which are interesting to see, but were wisely excised from the movie, while a cute feature titled ‘Frankie and the Unicorn’ is a home movie shot on set with Gosling, Williams and their on-screen daughter Faith Wladyka, who plays Frankie.

The Film:

The DVD:




Blue Valentine is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.
Click here to order it from Amazon.co.uk.