‘Blue Valentine’ shows love doesn’t always play nice

[imagebrowser id=2]Tragically heartbreaking, “Blue Valentine” is no doubt one of the best movies of the year. Outstanding acting and strong emotion mix the joys of new love and the pain of what happens when that love falls apart.

The movie is shot documentary style, allowing the audience an extremely graphic portrayal of a relationship’s life cycle. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams give heartbreaking performances as Dean and Cindy, a couple that meets by chance and desperately tries to save their failing marriage after having a child together.

They both interpret their roles unflinchingly, allowing the audience to pity them, hope for them and even dislike them at times.

As young college-age students falling in love, they project a vulnerability and innocence. Its almost believable  that their love will last, even as the present day scenes become more and more bleak. Their transformation into a world-weary couple with a toddler struggling to get by is astonishing: Gosling into a balding, trashy alcoholic and Williams into a lifeless, drooping middle-aged woman. The progression is obvious at the end, as the scene goes from past to present in quick succession.

A surprisingly great performance comes from Faith Wladyka as well, who plays their young daughter Frankie. She’s absolutely charming as she interacts with Gosling, and she manages to inject some hope into the bleaker scenes of the film.

The use of a handheld camera to film the movie was brilliant, as it simply could not have worked as well without the graphic scenes of Gosling and Williams in a hotel room as they attempt to save their marriage by sleeping together. The scene is sufficiently awkward, but it confirms that there is no hope for a couple that has so dramatically changed since their bright and hopeful youth. In contrast, the camera style also brings out the magic of their younger days, highlighting the sweetness of their marriage ceremony and the excitement of the first days of their courtship, catching small, pleased smiles from Williams.

The intimacy allows even the smallest emotions of the actors to be adequately caught on screen, adding more depth to the already rich plot and superb acting.

An unexpected surprise of the movie is Gosling showing off his impressive musical skills, serenading Williams as she tap dances on one of their first dates. Appropriately, the song he sings is “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” setting the tone for the rest of the movie.

The only complaint is the pace of the movie. It feels a little too long near the end and takes away some from the last scenes. A more fluid pace could have helped the movie become almost perfect. Instead, it tends to drag at times, and the flashback scenes could have been cut shorter so more of their history could have been shown.

However, this is one small complaint about a rich, heartbreaking movie that reminds audiences that love doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Gosling and Williams play their roles with a sincerity and grace that makes them two of the greatest performances of the year. “Blue Valentine” is a painfully honest movie that stays with you long after you’ve left the theater.