Blue Valentine - DVD Review

'for every happy ending there's a messy divorce. For every honeymoon on a tropical island there's domestic violence. It might not be pretty but this is the real world'

Maudlin in the excess, Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine is a worthwhile struggle to overcome; a film which challenges the norms of mainstream cinema and rejoices in deconstructing them. The target for Cianfrance's riotous disregard of Hollywood mantra? Romance, although, there's precious little of that here.

Whether Cianfrance and co-writers Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis purposefully set out to produce something which went against the grain is unclear but produce it they have. Blue Valentine explores what happens after all of the Rom Coms are dead and buried. After the twelve red roses have been sent by the anonymous lover in the final frame, what then for the unfeasibly attractive couple? Presumably they live happily ever after.

Cianfrance, Delavigne and Curtis know better than this. For every happy ending there's a messy divorce. For every honeymoon on a tropical island there's domestic violence. It might not be pretty (and at times Blue Valentine is very not pretty) but this is the real world, this is life and as The Narrator tells us in Fight Club 'it's ending one minute at a time'.

The areas covered by lovers Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) occasionally feel like a tick-box exercise in particularly horrifying relationship troubles. Anything that can go wrong either does or has. Cianfrance gets away with it due to the detail with which he affords each aspect. A small consideration of abortion is horrifying but Cianfrance doesn't linger for shock value and if anything his brevity is even more disconcerting.

Gosling is, on this evidence, Hollywood's finest male lead. Where contemporaries of his are already suited and booted in a franchise that involves, well, a suit and some boots, his last three films have been the one where he has a relationship with a plastic doll, flawed but occasionally magnificent thriller Fracture and startling school/drug drama Half Nelson. He and Williams, who together must occupy ninety percent of the screen time, are a superb double act in demanding roles. If you find yourself singing You Always Hurt The One You Love around the house for days afterwards then take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one.

The song though won't be the only thing which resonates for days. This is a powerful and disconcerting drama for anyone who's ever had problems in a relationship. Let's face it: that's all of us. Cianfrance and co should be commended on making a film which is so out of the ordinary in the fact that it manages to speak to most of the planet.


Blue Valentine is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Monday 9th May.

Look further...

'I don’t think I’ve seen such an intense yet melancholic scrutiny on heterosexual break-up on screen since Wim Wenders wrung several years’ worth of tears out of Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski in Paris, Texas. Watch it with the one you love. Or, er, not.' - Dark Eye Socket, 4 stars


  1. Your review looks so pessimistic, but I still enjoyed reading it, as well as watching this film. I think Cianfrance showed not only bad times of the relationship, but he focused on them.

  2. I think it is a pessimistic film (about love at first sight, about love in general, about the Hollywood notion of love) but the genius of Cianfrance is that I don't think he makes it a depressing watch... just a realistically gritty one.

  3. This is one of my favorite films of 2010 with what I believe to feature the best leading performances of the year to both Gosling and Williams.

    I believed their relationship and how it was falling apart. In fact, I bought the fact that Gosling made his character look older and it felt real to me. In fact, he kind of looked like one of my dad's friends which was really shocking.

  4. I certainly think they both deserved to be nominated at Oscar time and agree with the several people who pointed out that nominating Williams but not Gosling was a bit of a nonsense. The belief in the relationship is so crucial and, as you say, I completely believed both stages of it.