There are times when movies are propelled by acting, when a script is simply the supplement for watching a director’s artistic direction and simply letting the acting wash over. Such is the experience of Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine,” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
“Blue Valentine” tells the story of Dean and Cindy, a young married couple and their failing marriage. The story is told through flashbacks that slowly put their story together in context with their current, broken state as they attempt hold themselves together in the presence of their young daughter Frankie.
The story is fairly straightforward. There is little that is extraordinary about their relationship in this day and age; in fact, they are in many ways an iconic failing marriage for the 21st century. It is not the story that we stay for (not to say that the story is uninteresting by any means), but for Dean and Cindy themselves—for the performances given by Gosling and Williams.
Through a series of very personal close-ups during conversation between the two, we are slowly let into the personal circle of this couple and still are left with so much to wonder about. Accompanied by a stellar soundtrack from Grizzly Bear, the tragic tale of the two lovers unfolds with bitter irony, desperate affection and what lingers when the remnants of love are long gone.
Despite this window into the home of this couple, however, we still get very little information about them, especially from Dean. We meet Cindy’s family fairly early on in the movie and clearly see that poor marriages run in the family, and yet other than one scene in which Dean comments about his parents, we know nothing about him prior to meeting him in the beginning of the movie.
This is a mild hindrance from the experience of Cianfrance’s overall vision. Yes, we are sometimes given limited access to the more detailed elements of Dean and Cindy’s past and present, yet to become any more personal with the characters on an emotional level would be impossible. As I have said, it is not the script that carries “Blue Valentine;” it is Gosling and Williams, and oftentimes them alone.
There is little to be said about “Blue Valentine” that does not give away the experience of this couple, and experience is what it is; this is the kind of film that is sustained by its cinematic and acting elements. It is as emotionally sympathetic as it is visually entertaining.