Alex's Sundance Review: Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine
by Alex Billington
January 27, 2010
I didn't know what I was getting into with Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine and I'm still not sure I fully understand what I saw. I am fairly young and haven't been married so I couldn't compare my experiences in real life with those in the movie, since this film is about marriage. However, I do still feel like Blue Valentine is one of the best films of Sundance, despite being considerably depressing (I have to be honest). But I also consider films that leave me that emotionally affected some of the very best films, especially when they also have phenomenal performances, an intense captivating story, and incredibly gorgeous cinematography.
Blue Valentine stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as Cindy and Dean, a married couple with a young child. The film starts out some six years into their marriage, when things are getting a bit rough and the fire just isn't burning anymore. Ryan decides to take a trip to a theme hotel (and stay in the "future room") to rekindle their passion. But mixed within that "present day" timeline is the story from years earlier of Cindy and Dean's first meeting and how they eventually fell in love, got pregnant, and then got married. In a way, it's kind of like 500 Days of Summer, but without any of the comedy and without the numbered title cards.
What I love about the film is it's simple beauty but complicated characters. What I took away is that instead of the man in the relationship being the abusive one (or the villain, so to say), in this it's the woman, and we don't see that very often. Cindy is the one who comes from a sordid past and has lost interest in Dean. On the flipside, he deeply loves her and their daughter and won't even hit her, no matter how much she screams at him to do so. Watching their passion-less present day story unfold was riveting, primarily because it's so refreshing to see a story like this in a film. And watching that in juxtaposition with the original story of how they met and fell in love was heart-wrenching, especially knowing that's where they'd eventually end up.
This may be a hard film for people to love, simply because it's such a depressing story especially for those who have experienced similar events in their life. But it also has an immense appreciation for relationships, love and family. Beyond the story, the cinematography (shot by Andrij Parekh) is absolutely phenomenal. I really mean it when I say that it's one of the best looking films I've ever watched at Sundance. As for the performances, both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams deliver two of the best performances of Sundance as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see them both get some awards consideration whenever this is released.
Blue Valentine is, and will most likely remain, one of my favorite films of Sundance 2010. It's enchantingly beautiful, profoundly engaging, exquisitely well acted, intelligently written, and exceedingly illuminating.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 9 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 7 Comments
Just reading this made me tear up a bit as I can relate to the premise. It'll be nice to see a film which shows the pain a man goes through when a woman tears apart their family as opposed to the other way around for once.
peloquin on Jan 27, 2010
Ryan Gosling is a genius.
sumonesumtime on Jan 27, 2010
I'm interested in your thoughts of the score for the movie. I had heard a report that the band Grizzly Bear did the score for the film, and they are one heck of a talented band.
pyramid on Jan 27, 2010
hhmmm.. not sure if I want to see this. I'm about to get married and I'm completely in love with my fiancee and can't imagine anything better than to grow old with her. I guess it would be smart to look at this and take pointers on how not to go down that path but it does sound like a hard one to watch
El Hoopso on Jan 27, 2010
You should post the clip thats been released for the movie. Goslings accent is a weird combination of Deniro and Jersey Shore and the scene reminded me of the bridge scene in Saturday Night Fever.
Me on Jan 28, 2010
Very impressed with your honesty regarding your age and life experience. I also thought your expressed thoughts and views were very intelligent and well rendered. Thank you. I do like both of these actors and how you described the film certainly has me anxious to see this film. Let's hope some brave distributor picks up the film so we all can see it. Thanks again for you honesty and intelligence.
Bo on Jan 28, 2010
I saw this at Sundance early Monday morning and it has been my favorite of the fest on a pure movie-making/acting level. It's a pretty simple story given to us in a remarkable way. The end credits are really really cool and just add another bit of quality to this film.
Esteban on Jan 28, 2010
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