Friday, 28 January 2011

REVIEW: Blue Valentine

Its kind of like if Jason Van Der Beek had grown up into Christian Bale

At the risk of sounding like the most contemptible dickhead, Blue Valentine is a poem. It's a dark envisioning of two entwined human beings who moment to moment are losing everything they once shared, in almost the most horrifying and heartbreaking slow-burn imaginable. But this about more then the loss of love, as one of the connotations of divorce is realizing one of the most defining choices you'll make in your entire life has been a mistake, and mistake you'll never be able to rectify. If life is about choices, then Blue Valentine is a regretful piece about the consequences of making the wrong ones for the best of reasons. At times it can be a little overt in communicating its message and in hammering home its impact, but ultimately it's a fascinating, rewarding dive into existentialist despair.

Many of the criticisms of the film seem to revolve around the notion that the film puts you in quarantine with these characters, into some horrible intimate space you can't escape from. And while its true that's exactly what the film does, I think its perhaps the most powerful aspect of the film. The fact it never allows you breathing space from the relationship is exactly the point and the film has no interest in exploring things objectively, or trying to intellectualize things. It's about putting you into that place where you can feel the emotions as they do, the frustration and the infatuation in equal parts. Like I said it treats its material as a poem, fascinated by the emotional rift emerging. Michelle Williams, who has somehow managed to go from Dawson's Creek to being one of the most consistently impressive and astounding actresses of her generation, gives another award worthy performance here, where everything is so horrifyingly internal and repressed, yet so visible. She is certainly the most wrenching aspect of Blue Valentine, reacting to Gosling's increasingly volatile presence with such unspoken heartbreak, and while she has no chance at the Oscar, it certainly would be deserving.

Gosling I found a a little more problematic. I think there's seeds of a fantastic performance, but the honest moments are too fleeting and I sense that occasionally Gosling's ferocious acting style lead to him being more involved in the mannerisms then the emotions, and in such an emotionally raw environment and opposite a performance as strong as Williams', there was more then one moment I caught him 'acting' so to speak. And this detracted from the film a little I think. Having said that I can imagine that many a viewer watching this would be blown away by what Gosling does, but I think the core of this film was a realist relationship depicted poetically and his performance served to hurt that ethos at times. Similarly the film's structure is designed for such maximum impact that it can feel a little overwrought at times, but that's all the negatives I want to bring up about a film his purely ambitious, a film this purely heart-wrenching and a film this emotionally honest. A brave work in any context for sure. Raw as fuck.

Rating: 8/10

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