Blue Valentine : Endings, Beginnings, and Nothing in Between

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Blue Valen­tine: A Love Sto­ry (2011). That’s what it says on the movie poster. But is this what the movie is real­ly about? A roman­tic, sus­tained, and pro­found life­long bond between two peo­ple? Well, maybe it isn’t.

The present: Dean (Ryan Gosling) is an over­all like­able, easy­go­ing slack­er. His job, paint­ing hous­es, allows him the ‘lux­u­ry’ of drink­ing beer in the morn­ing. He’s not a radi­ant source of bliss but being mar­ried to Cindy (Michelle Williams) and get­ting goofy with their lit­tle daugh­ter Frankie (Faith Wla­dy­ka) is what he calls “his dream.” How­ev­er, Cindy, a nurse, has high­er aspi­ra­tions. To her, Dean’s “dream” is noth­ing but an end­less­ly depress­ing nightmare.

The past: Charm­ing high school dropout Dean works as a fur­ni­ture mover and meets med stu­dent Cindy. To him, it’s love at first sight. To her, it’s so-so. He makes jokes, she laughs; he sings and plays the ukulele, she tap dances to the tunes. Her father hates him, but that’s not an issue because love con­quers all – right?

The present: It sucks. Cindy knows it. Dean ought to know it. Maybe they just need time to them­selves. He takes her to a grub­by sex motel with themed rooms and wants to get drunk togeth­er in order to retrieve some sense of their pre­vi­ous rela­tion­ship. Ouch.

There are no soft tran­si­tions in Blue Valen­tine, just harsh cuts between the present and the past. What may sound like an emo­tion­al bal­anc­ing act is sim­ply a back-and-forth between a love­ly past and a dull present. The time shifts are relent­less­ly arranged and in com­bi­na­tion with the actors’ per­for­mances dread­ful­ly effec­tive in the con­trast­ing, bone-deep expe­ri­ence they’re meant to con­vey. Since the movie begins in the present, the view­er from the very begin­ning is nev­er allowed any illu­sions or roman­tic feelings.

Maybe Blue Valen­tine is a decon­struc­tion of those love sto­ries that are all too care­ful to only show the begin­nings of love. Or maybe it is a decon­struc­tion of the con­cept of roman­tic love itself. If that’s the case, it hap­pens gen­tly and with­out mis­chief. Although the pro­tag­o­nists nev­er expe­ri­ence any­thing like true, last­ing, and roman­tic love, Blue Valen­tine is not a cold, harsh, or cyn­i­cal movie. It feels more like an hon­est talk with some­one pour­ing their heart out, some­one who’s been through quite a bit. If you’re up to an almost two-hour long expe­ri­ence like that, Blue Valen­tine is for you and lov­ing­ly recommended.

 

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