As for writing reviews, I don’t think I want to write the traditional review. I want to write about how the movie personally affected me. As I have grown older, I have gone down the path of watching more and more ‘noncommercial’ films. I have been labeled as a snob because of my tastes. People tell me I overthink when I am watching a movie. I have been laughed at for watching too many foreign films. Well, maybe I do. But why wouldn’t you want to actively participate when you are watching a movie? I like figuring out all those unsaid words and thoughts that the characters just leave out as ellipses.
I will go ahead and confess that I am not entirely blameless either. I do at times cringe my nose with distaste when people ask me to watch movies like The Hangover or Knocked Up or Sex and the City. But, but let me tell you that it is not as if I have never or I haven’t ever watched a commercial flick, I do. But I just like to swing the other way a bit more.
Anyway, enough of mindless babble back to movie talks. Yesterday while going through my home page on Facebook, I came across an update from a friend – watching Blue Valentine. I was a little surprised because this friend is not a Blue Valentine kind of a person. Can you tell how much of a snob I am just by this statement?! I have seen the movie twice but last night I went back and watched it for a third time. A fair warning to all those who haven’t seen the movie, this movie will take a toll on your emotions. And even if you don’t like thinking while watching a movie or after, you will be left thinking and wondering.
Blue Valentine to put it in the very simplest of terms explores a couple’s relationship, how two people can fall in as well as fall out of love with the same person. The movie opens ‘in medias res’ with Dean Pereira played by Ryan Gosling and Cynthia ‘Cindy’ Heller played by Michelle Williams as a married couple with their 5 year old daughter, Frankie. As the camera intrudes upon their morning routine, we realize that Dean is a house painter while Cindy works as a nurse. The movie then cuts back to the time when the couple first met. This aspect of film making is a personal favourite of mine. Because you are expected to be attentive throughout and keep in mind what is the past and what is the present. One can make out immediately the difference simply by looking at Dean and Cindy. As soon as the movie flashes back to their early days of courtship, we see a fresh faced Williams and Gosling. While in the present time, both of them look tired and fatigued. In fact this feeling is mirrored from the very first scene, when Dean and Frankie wake up Cindy. She is clearly annoyed and peeved at being woken up before she absolutely has to.
As the narrative unfolds, we see that Dean and Cindy make an unlikely couple. As a high school dropout who works for a moving company, Dean is the romantic in the relationship, while Cindy as a pre-med student has her eyes firmly fixed on having a career. However after 5 years of marriage, the relationship needs evaluating. Cindy is clearly unhappy, having to compromise on a promising career, one reason being the unplanned pregnancy. She is also perplexed at Dean’s unmotivated lifestyle, painting houses and drinking throughout the day. But she feels guilty for despising Dean because of his romantic and generous gesture of marrying her after she got pregnant. Dean however is completely at peace with himself because he likes having a job that allows him to drink during the day. He has two goals – to be a good father and a good husband. Cindy is torn inside; it was because of his spontaneity, him being the absolute dreamer and the fact that he would do anything during the early days of their courtship was what attracted her to Dean. Now these very things make him seem the weakest in her eyes.
Derek Cianfrance puts the audience painfully close to a dying relationship, so close that you will stop and introspect where you are standing in your relationship. It leaves you wondering, where is the exact moment where things went awry? Was it just bad pairing from the very beginning or was it the characters’ own doing? Is there anything the couple going through the pain and the unhappiness do anything to fix it? You cannot blame anyone directly, but it hangs in the air like stale air that is making their relationship more toxic by the day. It gets difficult to watch at times, but it is an authentic portrayal of a failing relationship. I loved the choice of topic. Because I am always the glass half empty. It gets stifling sometimes when all the marriages end with the fairytale version of ‘…and they lived happily ever after.’ Why not portray what is really happening around us? Divorces and separations are on the rise, so why not try to interpret that? Dean and Cindy’s story is terrifyingly real, which makes Blue Valentine such a bitter pill to swallow. Both Gosling and Williams hit the right chords, first as the young couple who are so in love and then as the older couple, who are now in a dying relationship, but tries to stay put. For me the most powerful moment in the movie was when Dean and Cindy have their climactic argument and Dean asks “Do you want our daughter to grow up in a broken home?” Cindy replies, “I don’t want her to grow up in a home where her parents treat each other like this.” So there you go, there are your options, which would you choose?