Blue Valentine follows the tumultuous relationship of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) as they fall in love and subsequently fall apart. A grippingly honest and often ugly look at the darker side of a romantic story, Blue Valentine flips back and forth from the present to the origins of their relationship and shows how powerful love can bloom and how quickly it can implode, leaving everyone involved broken.
The performances from Gosling and Williams are truly incredible. Although playing older and younger versions of the same character they seem to be playing dual roles, completely different characters with different dreams and motivations, unaware of the people they would eventually become. They carry the entirety of the film alone, as they are really the only characters involved in the plot. There are periphery characters that they interact with, but centrally the whole thing is focused on the unraveling of Cindy and Dean’s relationship. It reads a lot more like a character study on the timeline of a singular relationship, and how love can be ugly and dark and ultimately can die. It makes all the right stops on the rom-com timeline: the meet-cute, the wedding, the pregnancy (all of it unconventional but emotionally strong). You follow their absolute highs and their absolute lows together and it really packs an emotional punch to the gut. It looks at the positive and negative aspects of the same thing, the uncomfortable passionless sex and the passion-filled sex they once had, the charm-exuding Gosling wooing her and the disdain she feels for him now. Often times even hard to watch, you become so invested in their love lives you feel those highs and lows with them.
One of the most emotionally moving films I’ve ever watched, I’ve been waiting ages for it to come to streaming. I personally love micro-level films; films that examine the lives of ordinary people and the aspects, however hard, of people’s everyday lives. They aren’t extraordinary in any way, but the story is so engaging you can’t help but watch. Considering Gosling got his big break playing the charmingly perfect rom-com man in The Notebook, this is a total antithetical version of the same character. He even abandons his good looks playing his future self, and he definitely left his charm in the past for the majority of the film. Williams is no stranger to dramatic roles but the but the switch from the soft demure Cindy to the emotionally drained, but practical mom Cindy is impressive in its own right.
A turbulent force, a dark look at the fragility of love, and a testament to the acting capability of two of our best Blue Valentine is Netflix’s hidden gem that demands to be watched and demands to be felt.
Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10