I remember the old adage that in every marriage, one can get the seven-year itch. If you believe “Blue Valentine,” it’s more like the four-year itch. “Blue Valentine” follows the meeting, marriage, and slow dissolution of the young marriage of Dean and Cindy.
You might think that this sounds depressing. You would be right! “Blue Valentine” isn’t going to leave any audience warm and fuzzy. It is a hard-hitting look at the ups and downs of a dysfunctional relationship. If you are looking for a positive film that will leave you looking for love, this is not going to please you. However, if you are looking for a gorgeous character study featuring two of the finest young actors at the top of their game, this is it.
Dean and Cindy are brilliantly portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Gosling (an Academy Award nominee for “Half Nelson”) and Williams (former nominee for “Brokeback Mountain”) are perfection as the young couple falling in and out of love with each other. They bring such a pure and elegant effortlessness to their characters. Williams was recently rewarded with another Oscar nomination for this role, and proves her place among the best performances of the year. It is a shame that Gosling didn’t make the cut, as he provides great balance to Williams in the film and has lovely moments of sweet tenderness.
It is quite uncomfortable to watch “Valentine” for a few reasons. First, it is one of the most realistic films that I have ever seen. It soaks into your skin and actually makes you feel voyeuristic at times. Second, it turns the traditional love story on its head and makes any coupled viewer a bit nervous about their own relationships. Finally, the story can’t truly be watched without seeing the relationship of Williams and the late Heath Ledger. The struggle to make a relationship work through children, addiction, and lost talent is painfully realistic to the depiction of Ledger’s final years.
Movies can’t always be comfortable. That isn’t their role. Sometimes the best films test your boundaries, make you think, piss you off, and leave you terribly sad. That is the role of “Valentine.” It’s not always pretty, but it’s a must for anyone looking for acting so realistic, so pure, and so organic, that you can’t shake it off for a few days after viewing.
Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.