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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams make beautiful noise.

2010 has been a magnificent year for film. We've received films from some of cinemas most important directors, new directors have laid claim to their spots as current heavyweights, and we've been given performances that will stand the test of time.

More after the cut --

Take that, and straight to the top of the list, shoot Blue Valentine. New director Derek Cianfrance has exploded onto the radar with a film that completely dissects what it is to truly love someone, and the combination of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams has given another definition to what acting truly means. Not just acting, but existing as their characters. Perhaps not even just existing as their characters, but truly becoming them. We know these two, we probably are these two. God knows that when I watched the film I saw shades of relationships I've survived, and I felt like a mirror was turned onto some of the relationships I've witnessed. In this film, we follow - through several years - two young people as they fall in love, get married, and fall apart. 

The most inviting, and infuriating, thing about this film is that there is no clear sign of anything except Gosling's Dean and Williams' Cindy. And perhaps that's how it was for them for so many years - no clear sign of anything except the other. But, when the harsh realities of a child and marriage set in, the walls come tumbling down. 

Much like Tender Mercies, or even John Lee Hancock's The Rookie, we spend our time in this film waiting for something terrible to crush us. And while awful things do happen, it's never what we expect. And that's life, right? That's the mission of the film, if one has to be chosen - there's life, and then there's what we expect. Never the two shall meet. Not necessarily a grim memoir, but a grounded one. This film's head is never in the clouds. 

There are lofty themes touched on, though. Dean is a romantic, and he believes in love fully; Cindy is a (perhaps) naive and longing girl, who wants to know that she's wanted. These are emotions we all experience. That's where the brilliance of this film's screenplay lies - in Dean and Cindy, there is us, and we can see ourselves from any angle we look at the film. 

The technical, and certainly least up to our imagination, side of the film, is flooring. Cinematography that contains "punchlines" to its framing, beautiful musical choices, and the most concise editing of the year... this is a film that should be taught. Not even just in film classes. Psychology classes, philosophy classes, composition classes... It's an incredible achievement on every level. And I'm proud to have known Dean and Cindy even for just a couple of hours, though it feels like I've known them my entire life. 

There are moments of violence in the film - emotional, more so than physical. But what physical violence is in the film is daily and visible from our windows. People are hurt, people are healed. "Things fall down, people look up, and when it rains it pours". That's life. 

And so is Blue Valentine.