Monday, February 14, 2011

Blue Valentine - Of love found and lost

When life takes over, love flies out of the window…..theres nothing more devastating than the decaying of a relationship, the slow death of a marriage. Derek Cianfrance's 'Blue Valentine' shows us precisely this. It tackles very smartly two time periods, the time when Dean and Cindy first courted and fell in love and then the present day when after six years and a beautiful daughter, time, broken dreams and reality has taken a toll on their love. 

Cindy, played to terrifying accuracy by Michelle WIlliams, dreams of being a doctor. She is smart, probably ready to get out of the working class background, the abusive father and unhappy home she was raised in. Dean, brilliantly performed by Ryan Gosling, sweeps her off her feet with his childlike antics and a tremendous sweetness. Those are the happy times, theres genuine love there. At the very onset of their courtship, Cindy dances to 'You always hurt the one you love' , which Dean sings goofily on his Ukelele. The line is eerily prophetic. 

Six years later the childlike becomes childish, Dean's lack of ambition and direction irks Cindy, now a nurse. He's a drinker who paints houses and is satisfied that he has the ability to drink in the morning, on the job and make enough money to get by. His family is his mainstay. He has no ambition of doing anything more. She's withdrawn into a shell. Her face is forever sullen, probably the burden of broken dreams weigh heavily. They have lost the ability to communicate. He suggests they get away for a weekend at a theme motel, you know, lets get drunk and make love. She cannot stand physical proximity with him. Its heartbreaking to see the rejection in the lovemaking scenes. We see Cindy's obvious repulsion, the clenching of her fists. Dean's not unaware of the vibes either. So, does marriage gone sour, come down to repulsion in physical contact? Its a grim reality as there is really no one to blame. Its not as if Dean is an abusive partner or unfit parent, on the contrary. But he's stopped understanding Cindy and the frustration of being unable to understand the distance between them, comes out as verbal lashings.

We get a glimpse of possible reasons why Dean and Cindy are as they have become. Dean's childhood involved a mother opting out of their lives, a father who was talented but possibly lacking in ambition. It is a probable reason why Dean wants to hold on to his wife and child, as that would be his sanctuary, something his own childhood lacked. Cindy, on the other hand, came from a home which even if not broken, had no love in it and an abusive father. Early in her life before meeting Dean, she wonders about love to her grandmother, thinking if her parents ever loved each other. They must have at one point, she says, but they got over it before they had her. To her, a marriage gone bad, is not worth staying in, especially for  her child. Childhood after all, it's environment, the homes that we come from, shapes us forever. 

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are the soul of the movie. Williams is especially heartbreaking as the mother, the unhappy wife. Her face mirrors her sadness, there is bleakness in her eyes and she carries the look of a trapped animal looking for escape. When we cut to the scenes of her past, there is  wide eyed wonder, the hope of love, a contrast to her present day self. Does time and living an unsatisfied life take this much toll. Gosling, with the beer belly and the balding patch on his head, seems to have aged more physically. But his eyes still have some hope. The problem could be that Dean never saw Cindy's eyes shut down. A movie like 'Blue Valentine' is only as good as the performances. And the movie soars in this aspect.

A possible discussion that might ensue after this movie is what exactly went wrong in this marriage where both sides are basically nice people who want good, wanted a happy marriage. So, where did Cindy's love disappear and why couldn't Dean see it going? Did he really ever see her, or was just having a home, a family, important and once that was achieved, he just let it go. Why couldn't Cindy realize that the Dean she courted was laid-back, almost childish. When did he become an albatross around her neck? But really, if we start thinking, do we ever know what went wrong. The moment when we can change things, so that its not too late. Some do, most don't. Thats the tragedy of life and love, a culmination of small instances of pain, hurt, rejection, loss of hopes, dreams.. And thats why this movie rings so true. Why it connects so deeply.

Playing at theatres and nominated for an Oscar - Actress in a Leading Role 2011

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