Blue Valentine: Falling In and Out of Love

A rather difficult-to-watch-movie, Blue Valentine is the story of the making and the breaking of a relationship – told fragmented, flashback style. It is the story of a beginning and of an end.

Dean, a guy in his early twenties, abandoned by his parents, who doesn’t even have a high school degree, falls in love with Cindy, a pre-med student. To such extent that he agrees to be the father of a daughter Cindy has, from someone else. Yet a few years go by – and they can barely talk to each other, they can barely understand each other. What happened along the way? How did this love begin anyhow? And how did it come to an end?

Told in a parallel structure, the present day scenes depict the breakdown of a marriage while the beginnings of the relationship from 6 years ago are revealed in flashback. Working for a removal company, assembling and dissembling the apartments of strangers, Dean complains about not finding pure love. Yet one day, while putting together the room of an elderly, he meets Cindy – who is taking care of her grandmother in the room across the hall. This is the beginning.

As a last effort to repair their marriage, Dean takes Cindy to a theme hotel where they spend a disastrous night together in the Future Room – yet another disappointment to be added to an expanding list. The frustrations and the anger both characters display at this failed encounter is incredibly painful to witness. The morning after, following a final fight at the hospital where Cindy works, she tells him she wants a divorce. This is the end.

What happened? This is what you’ll be asking yourself. Toward the end of the 6 years, Cindy is hardly able to remember why she wanted to marry Dean. Blue Valentine moves betweent the past and the present as if it’s trying to figure out what went wrong. From Dean’s point of view, not much did go wrong. He wanted to marry Cindy, he did and he still is married to her. Cindy, a woman who lost pride in her body and soul, is now even cold to the touch of the man she once loved. Who is guilty in this relationship? How did it even get to this point?

A lot of Blue Valentine is shot in series of close-ups and medium close-ups to bring us to the world of these two characters, Dean and Cindy, beautifully played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It’s a terribly sad film – wounded characters on one hand, wounding you on the other. Both performances are so convincing that even the flashbacks feel so real. Some scenes are hard to forget, like the evening when Dean plays an Elvis while Cindy tap-dances before him on the street. It’s so sweet, you really enjoy these two falling in love. Yet as minutes pass, you feel closer to their end. It’s like the heartbreaking formula of romance, the recipe of love:  on one hand we watch love forming itself, on the other, we project the confusions and sorrows of our past and present hearts, and watch love un-doing itself. At times, you might even feel like an intruder who happens to hear conversations that aren’t meant to be heard.

Falling out of love is as puzzling as falling in love. Blue Valentine is a powerful, brilliantly acted, heatbreaking character study, and an exploration of the ways in which love can die and feelings can gradually fade. It is painfully honest. Sometimes love just does not work. Sometimes love is just blue.

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