The “crumbling marriage” is the staple of TV soap opera, theater and movies. Often, the focus is the middle-aged jaded couple, as in the classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” With “Blue Valentine,” it’s a young one.
Barely out of the starting gate, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a mere six years along when domestic bliss begins to crash and burn. The heartbreak may be bearable, but for an adorable six-year-old, Frankie (Faith Wladyka of Malverne), who may or may not be Dean’s biological daughter.
Co-written and directed by Derek Cianfrance, “Blue Valentine” is a 12-year labor of love…the actors jumping in and out of other movies during the duration of the shoot. The film story also does a lot of chronological jumping from the final dissolution days to the idyllic meeting and martial beginnings. Again the lead actors had to hang in there, taking a month-long hiatus to “age,” as in “bulk up.” At times the chronological inter-cutting becomes confusing because, other than her hair length, Williams looks basically the same. Her character, Cindy, also never seems that nutso over likeable ukulele-serenading flake Dean.
Cindy has ambition. She wants to be a doctor. Dean is happy to have a job, where a morning beer won’t upset his menial labor. Nice guy that he is, he got her out of a jam and married her when she was suddenly with child, probably by bullying jock Bobby (Mike Vogel). For his good intentions, Dean gets a beating by the ex-boyfriend.
As things go sour, Dean sets up a last-ditch sex weekend with Cindy in a love motel in the porno “Star Wars” Future Room. But Dean doesn’t get it. Cindy is already gone. When the truth hits home, he is no longer Mr. Nice Guy, sacrificing his one good quality.
Of course, the real loser is Frankie. It’s awful to know the pain she will experience. “Blue Valentine” is a powerfully-acted downer. Young lovers seeing it on “Valentine’s Day” are guaranteed a bad date.