Friday 30 December 2011

Devouring Films: Blue Valentine

I adore indie films almost universally, possibly because I'm a big poser, but maybe, just maybe, because they're as close as any films come to being like the experience of reading a book. They always seem to make you work harder to come to the conclusions that you do, and they're so much more subjective than practically every Hollywood blockbuster (in which everything you're supposed to think is very clear: this is the good guy [always a guy], this is the bad guy, and if the good guy kills the bad guy, then that's a good thing, and the only way things are supposed to be). In other words, indie films reflect life so much more effectively than (most) big studio films, and to me that makes them much more effective pieces of art.

Blue Valentine is amazing. I mean, I knew it had gotten all those Oscar nominations, and people seemed to like it and stuff, but it took me literally a year, and a reminder from Frances (as in, she mentioned watching it, and I remembered that I had wanted to watch it and yes I am a tiny bit memory impaired), to actually watch it. And daaaaamn, why did I wait so long?! It's kind of lyrical and beautiful and painful and difficult, and above all these things it's real. And there's a really good reason for this- the writer/director met with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams separately about the film for literally years (I think about 5 or 6) and, without either of them having any contact with each other, developed these two characters over this time with them, so that they had entire histories and back stories that were utterly airtight. Added to this the fact that they were then more or less told to improvise what happened when the cameras were actually rolling, and what you get are two perfectly formed characters, meeting for the first time onscreen, and doing exactly what those characters would do to make the other fall in love with them. The effect of this is astonishing, and its most of what makes this film so great.

I didn't actually know any of this while I was watching the film, so I was mostly just going 'woah... how are they... but this seems so...' and so on, and that's because what I was watching was the genuine reactions of Gosling and Williams (obviously in character) to whatever the other had to throw at them. And please, allow me a brief interlude of adoration here: Before I watched Blue Valentine, I wasn't really into the whole Ryan Gosling thing (mainly because everyone else was) but oh my, I so get it now. It's not that the guy is even that good looking, but man, does he have charisma! Ridiculously charming and sweet and funny, and this is why basically every woman on earth right now wants to marry him and have sweet, charming Goslings (CUTE!) with him! This could, of course, just be me...

So, the story of the movie? It basically cuts between the disintegration of a relationship, and their meeting about 6 years earlier; and the disparity of the two states is outrageously stark (the different times are also shot in different ways, which helps add to the distance between them). The bits set in the past are somewhat bittersweet, since you see what the relationship has done to each of them, and the present is extremely uncomfortable at times to watch. I also found that I was on one character's side and then the other's almost constantly- I was on Gosling's side because Williams had changed so much and lost all sense of fun; then I was on Williams' side because Gosling hadn't changed at all, in spite of all their shared experiences. In the end though, there's no point in taking sides because, although we're granted a front row seat to the breakdown of their relationship, the only opinions that matter are those of the people actually in it.

I feel like this film could easily be criticised for not showing anything that happens in the six years between their meeting and the state we first find them in. I get that- it would have been nice for there to be some major events that we could pinpoint and say 'there. That's where everything went wrong, and nothing was the same since.' But here's the thing- how many times can we ever say that, about anything that happens in life? Sure, as we get older, we try and find things from our past that have made us the way we are, but just as often as not, there's nothing, or rather everything to point at. The fact that the film gives us no point where everything was bound to go wrong, only adds to its beautiful realism, and makes it that much more convincing.

So, you could say I liked Blue Valentine. You could also say I cried at the end because these characters are basically fully formed humans, and because I just wanted them both to be happy, and I wanted them to be happy together (whether they are or not, I'm not going to tell you- you seriously have to see this movie!) I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's basically the best movie I've seen all year (that I hadn't seen before, I have, after all, watched Gone With The Wind this year) and if that's not reason enough to see it then I must bribe you with Ryan Gosling, plus, you know, heartbreak and heart soarings. And amazingness.


  1. You didn't meantion THAT scene!

  2. I did not, because sometimes puritans comment on my blog and say things like they didn't like Julie and Julia because Julie Powell says fuck too much, so I don't know if talking about such things is something people want to read!

    But, for anyone who's interested- Gosling gives Michelle Williams some amazing looking oral sex. It's pretty hot. And its especially hot because its Gosling. Everyone happy? (She certainly was!)

  3. It's not just you. I, too, would not object to having little Goslings. He is attractive in an unusual sort of way, but, more than that, he seems to be an all-around decent human being.

    Thanks for reminding ME that I wanted to see this movie. I forgot.