The Look of Love - C&M Valentine's Day Review Contest
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February 2nd, 2012 (6:27 AM). Edited February 3rd, 2012 by Rest.
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Blue Valentine is the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), two people who promised happily-ever-after during their years of courtship, only to have their marriage torn down by inevitable differences.
Blue Valentine is well-paced. Beginning with the losing of the family dog, the film sets the story by exhibiting the two different personalities of Dean and Cindy in an ordinary kitchen, Dean a man who's childish manner is not yet dead as shown when he plays with his cereals with his daughter, and Cindy a cold woman and a "full-fledged" adult who criticises her husband's silly doings. Dean's immaturity and frolic wins their daughter's love, but both share their love towards her unconditionally and vice versa. The film solidifies the characters' persona quite early, with every scene opening layer after layer of the characters' skin, none meaningless in the least.
Only very soon do you see the crack in the fortress; Cindy is blamed and under fire by her disappointed husband after Cindy discovers their dog's corpse at the roadside. Cindy cries in the process. Dean would later break into tears after burying their beloved dog. Fights after fights occur, varying in magnitude, sometimes non-verbal, but never settling. This showed the emotional instability that exists among them, and the inability that any of them can truly comfort one other.
Interweaving with the latter-day events are flashbacks of their days of courtship. Beginning with Dean's total infatuation with Cindy, flourishing during their joyful night-out in the dark, vacant streets of New York, exploding with Cindy's sudden pregnancy and the confusion caused by events unraveled, and ending with their hopeful marriage.
Blue Valentine is a love story that is realistic, and it works despite its non-formulaic style. The film is beautifully shot and pieced, sometimes set in an urban, dark and free environment or otherwise in a narrow and cramped light-filled room. Colour plays a big part in putting in effort of realising the movie, sometimes using neon blue to intensify tense scenes, sometimes using dim and earthy tones for the gentler moments. Nonetheless, the film captures every scene magnificently and appropriately.
Michelle Williams portrays Cindy both in the past and present, with aplomb. She is able to play a vulnerable character who has a lot of love to give but none given to her. Ryan Gosling plays an average blue-collar man of New York who is shot at the heart when she eyes his lover-to-be from across the hall, in the most unexpected time and place. Both the lead characters are equal in strength and depth, and they progress into the story together. I've loved, hated and emphatised for both characters into the story. Both actors definitely have done their homework in attempting to portray this set of polar opposites, especially Williams, who is able to exude her character with a ferocity and coldness that is rarely seen, despite her wispy appearance.
Blue Valentine, which is essentially a film that tells two intersecting chapters of a story, is like a bitter betrayal to the audience, a candy turning from sweet to medicinal. At one point, Cindy proclaims to her beloved grandmother that she would never end up like her parents, who fight each other constantly. Dean and Cindy's glaring romance during that one night promises a bright, blissful future together. On the other hand, the present shows a scorning husband and wife who's foundations were promising, but in the end becoming each other's venom. We are thrown from a calm breeze to a raging current, back and forth, intensifying into a great love hand-in-hand with a great hatred as the film progresses. In the end, both a happy and tragic ending manifest.
Empathy is an often overlooked component that sets a good film from a great film, and there is much that you can empathize for these characters. For example, after being involved in a bloody fight with the doctor at Cindy's workplace over his jealousy, Dean throws his wedding ring into some bushes, only to hesitate and then attempting to recover his thrown ring. Dean's marriage is poisonous to him, but his love for his wife is undying. Such scenes are needed to truly evoke the meaning of the film at hand.
This is a love story, albeit a tragic one. It is not like other romantic movies that present pleasant closure for the audience, but Blue Valentine promises a real-life scenario and a realistic portrait of a family built upon clouds but later burns and falls, as well as remarkable acting and beautiful filming. This piece of work is truly a tours de force in the romance genre that comes once in a blue moon.
Rating - 5 / 5
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