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February 12, 2011 | 12:28 p.m. CST
Blue Valentine feels more like an intimate, late-night conversation with a heartbroken friend than a romantic drama. There’s no over-exaggeration, nor skimming over of gritty details. And though viewers can’t do anything to console the lovers, they can learn about what it means to fall in and out of love.
Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the heartbreaking film follows married couple Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) over a six-year span that jumps back-and-forth between a tumultuous present and a past when the two were in love.
Changes between past and present are obvious. Gone are Cindy’s long locks of blonde hair from college, when she dreamt of becoming a doctor. Her dull, shoulder-length hair is now clipped up. Vintage-chic sweaters are replaced with nurse’s scrubs. A heavier-set Dean sports wife-beaters and a grimy mustache, which are a far cry from endearing scruff and cozy hoodies.Related Movie
The perfectly matched duo provides believable images of modern twenty-somethings without crossing into the territory of pretentiousness. Williams’ portrayal as the emotionally stretched Cindy, which earned her an Academy Award nomination, becomes a model contrast to Dean, a troubled romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve and a “Giving Tree” tattoo on his bicep.
Music plays a major role throughout the film, from “You and Me”, a do-wop love song to the adorable serenade Dean sings to a tap-dancing Cindy when he utters “You always hurt the ones you love.” And with a soundtrack beaming with instrumental tracks by Grizzly Bear, Blue Valentine instantly becomes an indie-music lover’s paradise.
It might not be a feel-good movie, but the true-to-life performances and painful depictions of what a crumbling relationship looks and feels like makes Blue Valentine one of the best films of year thus far.