BLUE VALENTINE (director/writer: Derek Cianfrance; screenwriters: Joey Curtis/Cami Delavigne; cinematographer: Andrij Parekh; editors: Jim Helton/Ron Patane; music: Grizzly Bear; cast: Ryan Gosling (Dean), Michelle Williams (Cindy), Faith Wladyka (Frankie), Mike Vogel (Bobby), John Doman (Jerry), Ben Shenkman (Dr. Feinberg), Melvin Jurdem (Old Man), Carey Westbrook (Charlie), John Doman (Cindy's father, Mr. Heller), Jen Jones (Gramma); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jamie Patricof/Lynette Howell/Alex Orlovsky; the Weinstein Company; 2010)

"Intense, slow-moving relationship drama on a doomed marriage."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Brooklyn-based filmmaker Derek Cianfrance ("Brothers Tied") directs this intense, slow-moving relationship drama on a doomed marriage. It's written by Cianfrance, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne. The story veers back and forth from present to past (thanks to flashbacks), and takes place over one 24 hour day. It ends as the couple spend one night in a cheesy futuristic, blue-lit motel room to try to save their rocky marriage--which turns out to be a bad idea.

The film begins in a modest house in Pennsylvania, where live a couple once in love but who are now no longer in love. Slacker charmer Dean (Ryan Gosling), currently working as a house painter, finds to his dismay that his marriage to Cindy (Michelle Williams), a nurse in a medical clinic, is on the rocks. Dean is also alarmed that their pet dog ran away that night because the front gate was not locked by his wife (an omen of more bad news to come). Cindy once had ambitions to finish college and go on to medical school, but now is exhausted from her demanding work and from raising responsibly her cute 6-year-old daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka).  Hubby also loves the girl, but to his wife's chagrin acts only playful with her and fails to discipline her when necessary.

Dean's aimless charming ways and nice guy image (when they first met he was working a dead-end job for a Brooklyn moving company) no longer excites the more mature Cindy, who wants a more ambitious and mature hubby. After six years of marriage she no longer loves him, as she's convinced he will never grow up and become a responsible husband. Cindy is planning on divorcing hubby after a violent incident with him at her workplace became the last straw. The pic has previously gone into flashback to bring back scenes of their tender courtship and the hopes they both had that the marriage would work, as the story veers between those past tender moments when they were younger and filled with energy to the present hellish moments when they both look so haggard and drained. They now shout at each other and are unable to make a love connection, as even their sex has gone bad. Cindy finds that Dean is not what she wants anymore and turns him off; while he never stops feeling like she's his soulmate, but doesn't have the ability to change or excite her sexually any more.

The two star actors are quite good in bringing out the raw emotions involved in falling in love and in falling out of love. But even if this calculating story doesn't descend into pretentious melodrama and remains an honest and intelligent observation of a relationship, the pic never moved me as I thought it should have. I don't know exactly why (though I think it's because the main characters were never fully developed as realized people (more motivated to act out the filmmaker's agenda he had in mind for them, as their actions seemed more orchestrated than natural). My heart could never go out for either of the casualties of the failed relationship--a hauntingly modern and real relationship, but one grimly saddled with too many underwhelming moments where the passion was drained out of it (which also affected the pic).

REVIEWED ON 2/17/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"