Here is a movie that would certainly have made my “best of 2010” list if I had seen it in time, and yet I hesitate to recommend it. You have to know what you’re in for, and most of the people I know will not enjoy this film. Actually, I don’t know if anybody will *enjoy* it, exactly. If you want an entertaining movie, a fun flick, or anything remotely resembling that, stay away from “Blue Valentine.”
But if you’re looking for a well-made movie, a movie you will not forget or easily shake, this is your movie. “Blue Valentine” is the harrowing story of a marriage falling apart, intercut with sweet, wistful, and often melancholy scenes of the romance’s genesis, which only make it more painful. These two people are clearly wrong for each other from the beginning, but a lot of life happens to them very quickly, and they handle it as best they can. Then they have years to live out the consequences, one slow day at a time.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, both high caliber actors if not high octane stars, do great, great work here. Michelle Williams especially; she’ll be my pick for the Oscar this year, though she wasn’t nominated. The way she is able to mostly wordlessly communicate fatigue, anger, desperation, disgust, and among other things is remarkable. And director Derek Cianfrace, who is for all intents and purposes a rookie, shows incredible control over his material and seems always perfectly in sync with his intense actors. There are a lot of ways material this emotionally fraught could be overplayed, making this only a good movie. It never is, and that makes “Blue Valentine” pretty great. But also pretty hard to watch. Beware.