Friday, 21 January 2011

Review - Blue Valentine

It is often hard to put into words sufficient and eloquent enough to describe the joy of art when, even if just for a few moments, it captures true emotion. The shared experience of the cinema means that when this rare feat is achieved it is obvious to all in attendance. It is remarkable therefore that director Derek Cianfrance takes crushingly beautiful performances from his two leads Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and delivers them to the screen untainted. The credits roll and yet no-one moves - taking the extended time in the darkness to gather thoughts and composure for entering the brightly lit box office.

Blue Valentine
tells the story of love found and lost as it flicks between the past and present. Dean (Gosling) is a warm, gentle man and old fashion romantic strolling through life with ukulele in hand and finding himself in Brooklyn. While Cindy (Williams), bruised by her upbringing in a loveless home, desperately grabs affection but has yet to feel love. The present shows Cindy, now a mother to 6 year old Frankie, burnt out from the routine of family life and a hectic work schedule. Whilst beneath a receding hairline, glasses and a cigarette, the ever-loving playful Dean is a fragile shell of his former self following daily doses of emotional and physical rejection from his spouse.

On the surface it seems irrational that a woman could reject such a loving husband and devoted father. Yet at the same time in his growing need for her affection and a frustrating lack of ambition, we are able to understand why Cindy could fall out of love with that man that won her heart. It examines the key to happiness and what we all seek in our own relationships. What we hope for and what we get, our ambitions and emotional bonds are all put under the glare of the spotlight. A themed motel acts as the blue lit background to the breaking point. It is here that a drunken night in "The Future Room" leads the pair to the bathroom floor where on either side of the divide is crushing rejection whilst the other skin crawling disgust. It is achingly painful to witness but brilliantly realised by both Gosling and Williams.

At times it is hard to see past a series of sombre and particular raw scenes but Gosling adds a lighthearted edge that make the darker moments bearable. "We're inside a robot's vagina" quickly establishing itself as a front runner for line of the year. Where he demonstrates unerring warmth, Williams shows great vulnerability throughout and the chemistry between the pair is as beautiful as it is melancholic. Both fully deserve Oscar nominations which are no doubt assured.

A soundtrack by Grizzly Bear works perfectly - providing both a harmonius warmth to the past whilst a shadowy glumness hangs over the present. Interspersed with the odd ukulele solo, it melds seemlessly with the downfall of the relationship.

It may not be an easy watch at times and leaving as emotionally drained as the characters would not be surprising. However, it is a revelation in terms of capturing the joy and pain of love.

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