>Blue Valentine is a fragmented story of a fragmented marriage. As the writer and director, Derek Cianfrance is the artist of this dismal and unapologetic depiction of a marriage that’s lost it’s love. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play Dean and Cindy, two young lovers whose marriage has dissolved to a loveless schedule. They do what they are supposed to do as a couple, but there is no love.
Plot: Told from two different times, the beginning and end of their relationship, Blue Valentine shows what could be interpreted as the disease of love. The film breaks up the plot into two separate times, the past and present. It’s occasionally hard to follow when the plot cuts through different times. The actors underwent major transformations to portray the two different times, but the darkness of the film made that hard to notice at first. This plot structure deals in dichotomies: a young, unstoppable love and a dead, withering marriage. This style also lends itself to a critical viewing of the early times. I found myself looking for personality quirks or pet peeves that could lead this marriage to the fate we see on the other side, but there seems to be nothing that alludes to the unfortunate outcome. The absence of the middle, or the act II of their marriage, is missing, but let’s explore that in the story section.
Story: What could have happened to cause these two people to fall out of love? When showing their courtship, the couple seems fearless in their love. Dean pursues Cindy and finally manages to talk her into a goofy night on the town in which the couple behave like two giddy lovers, dancing and playing the ukulele in the streets. The scenes of their courting are reminiscent of other films’ portrayal of a couple destined to be together forever. Flash forward to the present time, and we find that not to be the case. The fact that the film doesn’t show you the middle of their relationship is a unique choice. As a viewer, you find yourself wanting to see that section, to comb through and discover catalyst of this deterioration of love. I believe that Derek left this section out on purpose, that in the story of these character’s lives, there was no single event or action that caused their relationship to fall from grace. I would imagine that the real people that this sort of event happens to do the same thing, they look back on their relationship to find out what went wrong. I’m sure they have as much trouble finding a cause than we did in the theater.
Characters: As I just stated, judging just by the courtship scenes, we feel like we’re watching a couple whose love is infallible, but we know more about their lives than this, at least that’s true about Cindy. Cindy, it seems, doesn’t know what love is. Her father is a violent and abusive husband to her mother. She resigns herself to ask her grandmother what it feels like to fall in love, but it seems as though grandmother experienced the same plight that Cindy will. Dean is given less of a back story, but one that seems similar to Cindy’s. We find out that his mother and father split up when he was young, and that he no longer has contact with his mother. That loss of a maternal relationship has to have a negative effect on a child. Knowing this, we can see through this young love to find an splinter of doubt that will lead these star-crossed lovers to their eventual declination. In the present tense, there’s an interesting display of their relationships. Dean lives his life for his family. His job is not so much the thing he goes to as much as the thing he comes home from. His life is with his family and he aims to make his wife and daughter happy. He fails miserably at the latter. The only time Dean ever displays any passion is when it comes to Cindy. Cindy never offers us an insight into why she’s so unhappy. You’d think that living with someone whose only goal is to make you happy would be a gift, but it would appear not. She asks him during a drunken foray into a cheesy, futuristic sex motel why he doesn’t pursue the things he’s good at. She essentially asks him why he’s content with the way they are right now. She phrases the question in terms of what would be best for him, but there are definitely undertones in her question. Could she be asking him to chase his skills as a musician to enhance their lives or to get him to leave her? There’s also the possibility that she’s so depressed that she’s asking how can he be content with living with someone like her.
Themes, Motifs, & Symbols: Love, or rather the absence of love, is the major theme here. The absence of love in the marriages of the character’s lives is the foreshadowing that explains what could have happened to these characters who were once so in love. In the opening scene of the film, we find out that Cindy forgot to lock the gate to their dog’s pen who has escaped. This results in the dog’s death. This event plays as both a precipitating event as well as a symbol for this family. I believe it provides a metaphor for them to realize that their love is dead. The final image of the film was strikingly oblique and was one that I’m continuing to think about even now. The film ends with Dean walking away from his wife and daughter after she asks for a divorce, and in the background, children are shooting off fireworks. Fireworks, obviously are usually reserved for celebrations, and as we know, nothing on screen is an accident. It makes me wonder what CianfranceCianfrance is trying to say.