What Works in 'Blue Valentine'

by mattdentler
October 24, 2010 6:42 AM
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A lot works in Derek Cianfrance's, Blue Valentine, which I caught during my super-quick trip to the Austin Film Festival this weekend. I've waited since Sundance to see this much-loved drama, and I was suitably pleased with what I saw. The main draw, of course, is the startling powerhouse of performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. They are a young couple, and we see their relationship at its most glorious highs and its most depressing lows, during different stages of their union. There have been plenty of dysfunctional-relationship films over the years, so you need something more than just terrific performances. In the case of Blue Valentine, Cianfrance's direction adds the needed edge. Certain aspects of the couple's relationship are revealed through flashbacks, and occasionally, it leads to subtle revelations. Perhaps the film's most surprising twist comes mid-way through the film, and hits hard because of the sequence of presentation. It is this twist that empowers much of the last half of the film, with gravity and solace, and it would not be quite as effective if it were presented in chronological order. Before I verge on spoiling it, I'll just say that Blue Valentine is not just another bad-relationship story, but a showcase for vibrant young talent. The trailer:

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