Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) are in their 20s when they fall passionately in love. Six years and a baby girl later their relationship is falters.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The disintegration of a relationship is captured in two time frames by Derek Cianfrance in this festival favourite film featuring two remarkable performances. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling make the film watchable and interesting, notwithstanding the downbeat subject matter and its lack of conclusion or insight. What does make it an interesting study is the accuracy with which Cianfrance captures the destructive power of small, everyday slippage in an otherwise loving relationship.
Time is corrosive, too, and he depicts longer timeframes in the past of the relationship in flashbacks while the present covers just 24 hours of their life. That, he says in his notes to the film, is what interests him, "the amplifications of time and ellipses of time, in a cinematic way," when memories play such a crucial role in our sense of what we are and how we got to the now.
The film has some wonderful moments - and some underwhelming half hours. Cianfrance hasn't managed to make us really care about the relationship, even though we find both of them likeable. We do see how they can be, and are, a couple; we don't see how they destroy that relationship, only its after effects.
The complications of suburban existence provide grist for the story, and the angry boyfriend who is discarded in favour of Gosling's Dean provides another texture, although it is used in a hamfisted way. When the boyfriend comes to beat up Dean after he's stolen Cindy from him, accompanied by two beefs, we are shown the way primitive man responds. This has a payoff later in the scene where Dean is drunk and feels un-manly, forcing a violence (to office furniture) as an ironic reaction against the notion he thinks Cindy has formed about him. All very well, but the resolution to the story doesn't have a payoff to compensate for wading through all this angst.
Review by Louise Keller:
Intense and intimate, this portrait of a relationship hits the highs and lows like a song whose melody floats to heavenly places before crashing to Persephone's realms. There is happiness and despair as lovers meet, fall in love and make promises before life's journey change the way they view each other. 'You and Me' is Their Song and the wonderful pairing of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams brings Derek Cianfrance's 'for better or worse' film to life. Gosling and Williams are sensational as Dean and Cindy; their story is told through time shifts realized effectively through good editing. This is a tough emotional experience and while we engage wholeheartedly with the central couple, we are left less than satisfied. True to the title, we know this is no Mills and Boon romance, but the script just misses as the story's dramatic arc comes to a conclusion.
Images of a child, a lonely road, a rocking horse, an empty kennel and a sleeping man mark the beginning. We quickly jump into the life of Gosling's Dean and Williams' Cindy and their little daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka). At first, it is difficult to see what connects Dean the multi-talented but unambitious house painter intent on being a husband and father, and Cindy the dedicated doctor. But as we are transported into flashback, we meet the pair at the beginning of their romantic and tumultuous relationship. It begins by chance in an old people's home. There's a rainbow in the sky as the serendipity of their second meeting takes place on a bus. There are complications. One of the film's most charming scenes finds Cindy performing an impromptu tap dance before a door displaying a decorative heart, while Dean plays the ukulele and sings in a goofy voice. It's a magical moment in time and we move with them through time as if pebbles skipping on a lake.
There's a vulnerable rawness to the performances and often we feel as though we are intruding on a couple in their most intimate moments. Sex scenes and nudity simply seem to reinforce the baring of the souls. We feel all their emotions - from angst, loneliness, hopelessness to hope, love, commitment and happiness. It apparently took Cianfrance 11 long years to make his feature into a reality, inspired in part by his parents' divorce. Perhaps he found himself too close to the project and was unable to see what the audience needed to make the journey complete.
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BLUE VALENTINE (MA15+)
CAST: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, Reila Aphrodite, John Doman, Ben Shenkman, Faith Wladyka
PRODUCER: Lynette Howell, Alex Orlovsky, Jamie Patricof
DIRECTOR: Derek Cianfrance
SCRIPT: Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrij Parekh
EDITOR: Jim Helton, Ron Patane
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Inbal Weinberg
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2010