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27 June 2013

Blue Valentine (Review): "The Birth and Death of Love"

This review contains information that may spoil the movie for you.  Watch the movie first before reading this review. I highly recommend this film.
Cindy asks, “How do you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that?”  
Her grandmother answers, “I think the only way you can find out is to have the feeling.”

Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” is not your typical romantic drama movie.  There’s no happy resolution in the end, no neatly woven denouement and nothing is resolved after the last frame turned black and the credits start rolling. On the other hand, you can’t really say that the movie does not present its viewers with those sought-after romantic cinematic versions of love.  The film does offer enough romantic scenes that can make anyone swoon, especially the morbidly romantic.  But as much as “Blue Valentine” is a romantic foray, it also does not water down the bitter reality of love.  In fact, you might even say “Blue Valentine” started out like a film and ended in real life.  This film is definitely not for the hopeless romantics who are seeking assurance that love is ever-lasting and it saves all.

 The story revolves around Cindy and Dean, married with a 10-year old daughter.  The movie interchanges scenes from their present mundane married life with their younger days filled with passion and unbridled feelings.  In the paradigm of cinema and literature, these two characters are destined to fall in love considering their undesirable backgrounds.  Cindy is a sexually-active young woman who seeks affection but is fearful of true love.  You have to blame her upbringing for all that.  Dean is a high school dropout, romantic and naturally good-natured, but he has no concrete life direction. By random chance, as all romantic attachments seem to begin, the two met, flirted and eventually fell in love until an unforeseen circumstance brought them even closer together and fostered their love for each other.  What ideal way to begin a marriage: a man taking the romantic hero role and a beautiful woman finally finding her true prince, albeit he’s a mover and not royalty.  Still, they are brought together by genuine love for one another.

 However, the film does not end there. If it shows us the glorious birth of love, it also takes us to its complicated and often ambiguous demise.  In this respect, “Blue Valentine” may be this year’s most realistic dramatization of romantic love.  Instead of taking the easy way out and blaming everything on the guy or the girl, the film explores how differently men and women deal with the death of love and the end of a once beautiful relationship.  No one is to blame. Love is imperfect because people are imperfect.  The other partner may still be in love but the other person has ceased to love.  Love does not always end because of a partner’s infidelity or physical and psychological violence towards the other partner.  Love, sometimes, ends because of the feelings that sustain love disappear as time takes its toll. 

Casting Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling for the two leads is a perfect maneuver, and ultimately the strength of the film.  These two actors approached the roles as individuals rather than the clich√© man and woman in a romantic movie.  Under the skin of Williams and Gosling, Cindy and Dean looked and behaved like real human beings.  As a result, the sympathy of the audience shifts from Cindy to Dean, and then to neither of them, until finally, even we the viewers are forced to accept that these people must part for their own good, and neither of them is to blame. 

Anyway, at least I hope that many of you who will watch this film will get the same feeling that I had. 

“Blue Valentine” may discourage people from falling in love, but I think it may also make people cherish and nurture the love they have now.  Only time will tell if the wondrous feeling we’re having now about our beloved might fade as quickly as it sparked.  Truly we cannot trust our feelings if they can simply disappear like that.  Then again, the only way to find out is to have that feeling of love. “Blue Valentine” is my kind of love story because it is like a Hallmark Valentine card that comes with an expiration date.  

Michelle Williams deserves her Oscar nomination and Ryan Gosling was robbed of his Oscar nod. Director Derek Cianfrance superbly directed the film giving us the right dose of sweetness and bitterness wrapped in good music, good script and great acting. 

First published in "The Chair"

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