A terrific vehicle for its two talented leads, Blue Valentine weaves an achingly tender albeit bittersweet tale of a marriage in trouble, all while offering a staggeringly frank examination of relationships, sex and domestic drama. The film’s true appeal, however, lies in how refreshingly it delves into the genesis and demise of a romance that shows an ocean of promise in its first flush but was always a doomed affair. Equally appealing is its bracing presentation of a young pair of lovers grappling with the tough issues instead of another middle-aged pair that so often bombards the cinema.
Playing the kind of amiable, attractive twosome you can’t help but give your attention, Ryan Gosling (Dean) and Michelle Williams (Cindy) have never been more captivating. Their well-crafted characters share a beautifully affectionate marriage, a delightful tween daughter – and the kind of steamy sex scenes that can make even Jenna Jameson blush. In the early stages, their love is easy and joyous, but soon cracks begin to appear and the romance teeters increasingly closer to implosion.
Writer-director Derek Cianfrance, who toiled tirelessly to get the picture made, has much to celebrate as the film takes flight with the right balance of conflict and sweet respite. It evokes a lovely arthouse vibe with its soothing ambience and persistent hand-held camera shots, and the indie atmosphere is only heightened by marvelous, heartwarming music, including a mesmerizing rendition of “You and Me” by Penny and the Quarters and Gosling’s goofy yet charming take on “You Always Hurt The One You Love.” Clearly, the inclusion of these songs was no coincidence.
As you may already be aware, Blue Valentine received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA late last year until pressure from the film studio resulted in an overturn of that decision. Thankfully, Blue Valentine (now rated R) can be viewed by wider audiences sure to fall for its doubtlessly excellent depiction of love found and lost, and the stunning, award-worthy performances from Williams and Gosling.