Movie #123 Blue Valentine
(2010, US, d. Derek Cianfrance)
I must first confess that I am currently five movies back in this movie a day challenge. It feels like an eternity since I last posted. It’s just because I have been so busy lately. That frenzy does not look like it is about to cease but I’ll try my best to get my movies in. Now to the review: Blue Valentine is (500) Days of Summer for audience members looking for a gritty and realistic story. At times hard to watch, it’s one of the most realistic and harrowing films about real life relationships that really brings the style of John Cassavetes to mind. It’s a heartbreaking tale about a true love and the reasons it doesn’t work out (I’m not ruining anything here). Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are at their best. I read in a recent interview that a lot of the scenes were improved. Once the actors had a grip on their characters, Cianfrance would let them know what each of the characters wanted and the actors would improv their way to a final product of sorts. There’s one scene in particular on the Brooklyn Bridge that implements this style and really adds a cool layer to the film. Williams plays Cindy, who just found out she was pregnant. Gosling plays Dean who wants to figure out what she’s not telling him. Before shooting, Cianfrance tells Williams that no matter what she should not tell Gosling that she’s pregnant. He goes to Gosling and tells him that no matter what, he has to find out what she’s keeping secret. Cameras roll. It’s this sort of realism that cannot be scripted and must be trusted to truly great actors to create in the moment. This is a film that would make Cassavetes proud. This leads us to the best part of the movie: its complexity. Cianfrance never really puts the blame on Gosling’s or William’s characters. He just shows how both of them respond to the situations they are in. Instead of using easy sub-plots of adultery or child abuse, Cianfrance lets drama unfold through a glance of the eyes, a dialogue uttered mistakenly, or just through silence. I thought it was easier to side with Gosling’s character but I think it’s Williams who is a little denser, mysterious, and realistic. If you’re looking to get your heart broken, watch this film. Stylistically, it’s pretty strong as well. The pre-marriage shots are all shot on 16mm while the post-marriage is shot on RED (a state-of-the-art digital camera). This adds a really cool “vignette” feel to the times that could never be and a very grim and harsh pound on the head to the reality that actually is. The last shot, captured on this RED, has such a powerful subtlety to it that it captures the theme of the entire piece without even flinching. And then come the fireworks.