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Ten Word or Less Review: Great sad bastard cinema.  That’s a good thing.
Blue Valentine gives the audience the independent movie romance experience.  Which is to say Blue Valentine is a picture of love, warts and all, juxtaposing an unorthodox romance from its touching beginnings to its heartbreaking dissolution.  Those looking for happy endings and cheap laughs will be out of luck here.  All there is to see is the sad story of two well-intentioned souls and their sad decline towards emotional anguish.
Indie movie magnet Ryan Gosling (Half-Nelson) is Dean, a young guy with a good heart, strong work ethic but little tradional education.  He’s new to the New York area and picks up a job as a furniture mover.  He does something on the job so touching for a client it’ll break you up inside.  Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) is Cindy, a smart college student with a desire to be a doctor and a homelife she wants to escape from.  We follow Cindy and Dean back and forth from the beginings of their relationship to the last days of their troubled marriage.  Valentine portrays two people with the best of hearts for one another, who begin a life under unusal circumstances, but then gives us a vision of how good intentions fade and the truth of what people are left with when they grow beyond the situation which brings them together.
Valentine is that rare kind of romance that tries to paint its characters in a realistic light.  When we meet Cindy and Dean they are both world weary in their own way, but both are still blessed with some sense of betterment and optimism for themselves, despite their hardships and emotional pains.  We learn about the two of them very gradually and each small revelation says a lot about their actions in both stories.  Their later life incarnations are as two people who have been worn down, she by him and he by life, that urge to make each other happy now gone.  No one is to blame and there is no one thing to hold out as being the cause of their failed marriage, the only thing that’s happened is life, or maybe a lack there of.
Gosling and Williams are beautiful performers here.  Both are touching and they establish a rapport in their scenes of youthful romance which makes their falling apart so much more heartbreaking to view later on.  Just a few years ago Sam Mendes attempted a similiar story with Revolutionary Road but failed to tell us why these people fell in love in the first place.  He left us nothing but an insuffrable movie about two selfish jerks constantly fighting.  Blue Valentine paints a more complete and resonant portrait of a couple on the outs.  Dean and Cindy’s failings escelate from simmering resentment into a full blown meltdown slowly, avoiding the trap of making the two of them unsympathetic and tiresome.
First time feature director Derek Cianfrance provides the kind of deft hand which gives Valentine much of its emotion and depth.  He shows great skill with quiet and unassuming drama that builds into hard emotional tension.  He clearly has a limited budget to work with, Dean and Cindy go to a hotel which seems about the size of a hall closet, but uses location shooting to his advantage.  This is a New York film but not one obsessed with creating faux sensations of hustle bustle.  Cianfrance also ran aground of the MPAA because of his insistence on realistic sexual encounters.  Originally slapped with the dreaded NC-17, the MPAA should feel no small amount of shame for their gross sense of negligence and warped priorities.  Once again you can kill and mame relentlessly, but show two people being naughty and there’s big stink to make.  The sex in the film serves a dramatic point and while frank in its depiction, it isn’t off putting or pointless.
Appreciators of movies aiming for convincing emotional stories will grab onto Blue Valentine.  It’s free of the crass bullshit that Hollywood typically schleps around under the guise of love story.  If I were love I’d fire Hollywood and get a new agent to represent me.  It’s a memorable film experience that leaves a lasting and well deserved impression.
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