Blue Valentine (2010/11)
With great inertia, Blue Valentine takes us to a space in-between the beginning and the end of a romance, and attempts to piece together a semblance of what was lost along the way. It has no definable answer to
"what went wrong" other than what the films inconclusive ending symbolizes, and yet within the journey from "love at first sight" to a shattering disconnection of love and trust, the audience is torn from the main characters by removing all sense of hope that things will "work themselves out". The film's narrative is juxtaposed between the past and the present in very quick character driven scenes that allow for each character to define who they are individually, and then coincide that with the stasis of their communal identity in the present day.
Ryan Gosling's Dean is a man who attempts to do good by Michelle William's Cindy by remaining the man that he was when they first met. His ambitions are limited, and his sacrifices are all in part due to his commitment to his family. Cindy, however does seek out the absolution of her broken past by dreaming of a life moving ahead; but becomes complacent when she finds that this dream is not shared by her partner in any form. They are two lost souls that have moved on without one another, even though they have been together the entire time. It is not surprising then that the greatest representation of their "past life" resides in their daughter Frankie, who has become the initial bond between the two love struck strangers in both the beginning and the end.
Both actors are quite fantastic in their roles, and the film does a very nice job of adding a much needed ambiguity clause to a genre that seems to be altogether too predictable. It is rather jilted when it attempts to define its initial purpose; but with a film such as this perhaps a postmodern outcome is what director Derek Cianfrance was attempting to do in order to separate the characters from their internal transformations. Without the use of dramatic external factors, we see the dissolution of the characters from within, which creates a much more hardened view of romance than one would find in similar pieces. To a more critical degree the film does seem a bit unfocused visually, as the cinematography changes shades and tones too many times to count and suffers from a subtle lack of establishing shots; but yet it does manage to transition from the past to the present without too much detraction.
Blue Valentine is now playing in theaters nationwide.