BLUE VALENTINE (Derek Cianfrance)
A marital breakdown is interesting subject for cinematic discussion as it is, but Derek Cianfrance pushes the boundaries further, making the journey of discovery for us a bit more poignant and bittersweet by juxtaposing the back story of how his two main characters met, fell in love, and started a new life.
Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) seem an okay couple living an ordinary life with their young daughter, but we see that Cindy is discontent and frustrated, and Dean starting to implode. Cindy wants Dean to achieve more from his life, yet Dean says that he's already content with his job (as a house painter) that allows him to be with his family everyday. Meanwhile, Cindy works her ass off as an on call nurse, all the while resisting sexual hints from her boss and a former flame whom she has a chance encounter. This puts a heavier load on her already strained perspective at her marriage to Dean.
Through flashbacks, there is a reference to marital relationships in Cindy's family, with her granny's take on love and marriage, and Cindy witnessing how her parents go from love to loveless. Cianfrance then returns to present time where we study how the beautiful and fairy tale beginning of Dean and Cindy has become a silent nightmare.
What's interesting and thrilling about BLUE VALENTINE is its narrative structure where details unfold bit by bit until the whole story is complete in the end, but then the ending is open ended which leaves for more discussion.
Given the facts alone, I felt more allegiance to Dean's character, not as a sexist choice but due to lack of explanations for Cindy's doubts and troubles (are women depicted here then as troubled, contemplative, and emotional?) yet seeing the whole picture, I do not pass judgment as to which among them caused the state they are currently in. Dean's love for Cindy is undeniable, but Cindy has a lot on her mind that we may never fully understand, hence we cannot pass judgment.
Honestly romantic, brave, and features breathtaking cinematography (the scene during sunrise where Cindy tells Dean she is pregnant is just a superior visual achievement), BLUE VALENTINE will make you believe in love again, and at the same time remain grounded that falling in love is only the beginning of a sorrowful journey, which makes you appreciate life even more.