To complete my trifecta of Sappy Movies Watched Whilst in Flight, I went with this incredibly dark film. “Incredibly dark” might seem like an exaggeration, because how dark can enviously blonde people like Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams be? Turns out, quite dark.
I’m not sure why the movie is called Blue Valentine, though I imagine it has something vaguely to do with romance, or the lackthereof as the movie progresses. That seems right. In any case, this movie isn’t really about romance so much as salvaging what’s left of it, especially with a kid in tow to completely ruin everything. As it turns out, it’s all gone. Kids ruin romance. Spoiler alert!
As heartbreaking as it was to watch a marriage dissolve before my eyes, I can’t say that I was left heartbroken at the end of the film. For one, I’m not the hugest Ryan Gosling fan. I think he’s incredibly overexposed right now, a la Natalie Portman six months ago, and I just wish he would go away. That being said, I think he did an incredible job in this movie. He transformed himself into a dumb, initially upstanding guy, willing to aim high for a smart girl and make her dreams come true. And even when his character, Dean, let himself go via life’s basic temptations (boozing, chain smoking, general irresponsibility, rage), he was still of the mindset that he should provide for his family and be there for his daughter. It’s an admirable quality, and certainly a more complex character than what’s normally portrayed on the big screen. Michelle Williams was equally brilliant, though I can’t say the role was drastically different from anything else she’s done. She’s built a career playing the girl who makes one poor life choice and deals with it well and probably gets steamrolled romantically and she’s quite good at it. Cindy in Blue Valentine was classic Michelle Williams, so there you go. I wouldn’t be surprised if this role was written for her.
Blue Valentine could have gone the way of Revolutionary Road, in that it could have been so depressing that it took its viewers down with it into a sinkhole of emotional despair, but it didn’t. That’s partially because of the way the film was timed and edited——the story went back and forth between present and past, the present being the dissolution of the marriage and the past being the budding of the romance. I also think that the scriptwriters withheld enough information about the characters to make them believable; that is, they weren’t archetypes (well, Williams was, of her past roles) but real people with secrets and contradictions, all of which were not revealed throughout the course of the movie. Instead, we saw snippets of their lives and had to piece many of them together to form our own conclusion as to why this couple ended up breaking up. On the surface, it seems that they shotgunned their wedding, forced a family out of a Pregnancy Situation, and attempted to build a deeper romance around it. Maybe that was the case. But neither character really confirmed or denied it. The implication was that the reasoning went much deeper, and that even though we’re watching a movie about it, it’s really none of our business.