Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s (The Place Beyond the Pines) melancholy love story, Blue Valentine. The film cuts back and forth between two timelines, with Williams and Gosling playing Brooklyn lovers at both the beginning and end of a relationship. Cianfrance brings his documentary filmmaking skills to bear, coaxing powerful, authentic performances out of his two stars, and utilizing inobtrusive camera techniques that make us feel like a voyeur in these characters’ private life.
I enjoyed the opening sequence a lot, as Gosling and Williams are both awakened early in the morning by their young daughter. Watching the family get ready for work and school doesn’t feel the least bit staged — it’s like we’re truly spying on a random family somewhere in America. There are many other sparkling moments of realism and vitality throughout the movie, but Blue Valentine is a movie where the writing is too forcefully on the wall. We know these two are going to fall out of love, and the inevitability haunts the entire film, even when we’re supposed to be enjoying the happy moments.
The writing, directing, and acting here are superlative and inspired, and I also appreciate that the movie never devolves into a battle of the sexes scenario, either. But despite the incredible craftsmanship in its making, what Blue Valentine ultimately exposes about love and relationships is just a little too depressing for my taste.
Oscar Nomination: Best Actress (Michelle Williams)