Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Blue Valentine 2010

There are actors who immerse themselves into a character and become the character...like Daniel Day-Lewis or Christian Bale. And then there are actors who bring much of themselves into the role they're playing, but are still able to give credibility to the character and bring it to life...much like Johnny Depp or Edward Norton. Or Ryan Gosling.

I first saw Gosling in 2007's Fracture, while everyone was talking about how good he was in the previous year's Half Nelson. I was amazed at how well he carried himself against a giant like Anthony Hopkins and so I rented, in quick succession, The Notebook (2004), Half Nelson (2006), Stay (2005), The United States of Leland (2003) and even Murder by Numbers (2002). I had thus seen almost all the films he's ever been in (I have only missed two and don't remember him from a third) when I went to see him in 2007's Lars and the Real Girl. By this time, I was a certified fan. He has done some mediocre films and some outright bad films...very few good ones; yet, his performance is always, always flawless. He makes the characters his own, bringing his own voice and mannerisms to every role, and yet making it all very real.

So, after a quiet three years, when I heard that he is in 2010's Blue Valentine, which has been nominated for various awards, I knew I had to watch it. I did not want to know anything about the premise - it wasn't important. I knew that if Ryan Gosling was in it, he will be worth it. And I was right.

The story revolves around a married couple, Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), who have lost the love they once shared. Interspersed with moments from their soulless relationship today, are scenes from their beautiful love story in the past. How they met, how they fell in love, how they made it all happen. It is the current relationship, with all its painfully real emptiness, which makes this film worthy of attention. It is Dean's unbeatable optimism and Cindy's struggle to breathe freely that is so true-to-life, and yet so hard to watch. Dean and Cindy are not very likable characters but both Gosling and Williams have brought them to life with an honesty that is breathtaking, without ever making them look like caricatures: allowing the audience to understand them, even when it is to hard to ever condone their actions.

Blue Valentine is a love story that went wrong. It is a real, honest, gritty film and my only complaint is the cinematographer's heavy use of a shaky, hand-held camera that seems to have become a requisite for all films purporting to capture 'reality'. Apart from the dizzying camera work, the film is quite excellent. A must-watch.

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