Review by Nathan Samdahl (A-)
I can thankfully say that all of the hype around Blue Valentine is deserved. Both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are brilliant in the film and should expect to see many a nomination in the months to come. Blue Valentine is probably also the most raw and emotional film of the year (although Biutiful is excellent as well).
What I loved is that the story is not based around a giant inciting incident such as a death of a child or a terminal illness that determines how the leads will act throughout the movie. Instead, it's just about a relationship and its gradual build and eventual disintegration.
With Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance and cinematographer Andrij Parekh create a striking and beautiful visual style that is simultaneously natural, with a lot of handheld, and controlled and nuanced. The look is similar in many ways to the early films of David Gordon Green (i.e. George Washington) or to the 2008 Michelle Williams film Wendy and Lucy.
Also, either by masterful editing or original conception, the story unravels in an interesting manner as it jumps back and forth between various points in their relationship. While many times this is done to simply make a mediocre film better, the filmmakers carefully craft each scene so that any confusion and questions that might arise from early character interactions are given greater meaning and clarity later in the film.
Also, as a quick note regarding the NC-17 controversy with this film, I can say that the scene in Blue Valentine that originally garnered the stiffer rating (which involves Gosling giving oral pleasure to Williams' character) is fairly tame in comparison to other much more explicit R-rated films (i.e. American Psycho or Unfaithful). In the end, it certainly created some good free press for the film.
Blue Valentine is one of the best of films of 2010 and should not be missed. But take warning that this is not an uplifting film with a Hollywood ending. Still, it is one of the most beautiful and emotional stories you will see this year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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