Blue Valentine is a movie that details the end of a marriage while inter-cutting those unhappy moments with scenes from the meeting, courtship and wedding of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams). This is the first time, in so very long, that I had read a screenplay of a movie before I actually watched it. Which made me super reluctant about actually watching the movie.
The screenplay ran 96 pages, the film was 112 minutes. And they were a dark, depressing 112 minutes. Even when there was levity on screen. Even when we were being shown how these two individuals from different realities, with differing aspirations, met. Maybe because we knew what was coming.
She was studying to be a doctor, he hadn’t even finished high school. She was part of a dysfunctional family. He was all alone. They met, they fell in love, he stood by her when she chose to keep a baby that may have been the child of the man she had been dating before Dean came along. We don’t see why Dean and Cindy no longer get along. We don’t see why Cindy gave up on her dream of being a doctor and became a nurse instead—we assume it is because she had her daughter, but we are never told this.
We aren’t told much of anything really, so the impression I got was that the man in this relationship got screwed over because he didn’t adhere to convention. He stuck with the girl who was pregnant with a child who may or may not be his; he didn’t chase around after some impossible dream; he chose to have a job that paid him enough to allow him the luxury of spending time with his wife and kid; oh and lest we forget he got beaten half to death by the guy she was dating when that guy found out that Cindy had another man in her life.
Cindy cooks and cleans, Cindy has a regular ‘grown-up’ job and Cindy clearly lacks joy in her life. She is intrigued when she meets the ex-boyfriend on her way to an ill-conceived (by her husband) date night. She clearly blames someone for the way her life turned out but it is unclear if she takes enough responsibility for it.
So to answer the question posed as the title of this post, it is difficult to judge Blue Valentine as a movie. It is an ‘experience’, and not a very pleasant one at that, because it is difficult to see why the average movie watcher should want to sit through the ugly chronicle of a relationship’s demise.
The film looks good, both time periods are beautifully shot, the performances are solid, as is the editing and direction. But honestly, this is a movie they should show in couples’ therapy or as a deterrent to people who might have doubts about marriage.
Because if it isn’t quite right and the bond isn’t deep enough it becomes possible for one person to say to the other, “I’m so out of love with you. I’ve got nothing left for you, nothing, nothing. Nothing. There is nothing here for you. I don’t love you…”
Honestly, who needs that from their entertainment?