Within minutes of Blue Valentine beginning, you have a fair idea that it's probably not going to end well. The inevitable melodrama aside however, sees the audience treated to two absolutely stellar performances from, in my opinion, two of Hollywood's most under-rated and hardest working actors. The film tells the story of young married couple Dean and Cindy Pereira - played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams - as it shows how they originally fell in love, then fast-forwarding to the present day and painful realisation that it isn't all 'happily ever after'.
Going in with the expectation, all of this film would put me on an extreme downer, I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and affection Blue Valentine radiated through certain moments, more so in the scenes set in 'the past'. However, it is slightly disheartening to see the concept of marriage and having children sold as nothing other than a fruitless venture.
Though the film sees both stars crumble into a pit of complete melancholy, it's very much Michelle Williams who outshines her co-star. I got the impression the story was ultimately her's, while Gosling acted as, one of the many, catalysts to the sadness unfairly inflicted upon her. As far back as her father (The Wire's John Doman), the character's male influences - including an ex-boyfriend played by Mike Vogul - have been nothing short of horrid, finding solace mainly in her grandmother's love and affection. I found even in the 'flashback' moments there was a strange deviousness to Gosling's character, yet as the credits roll, I didn't feel a true sense of anger and a distinctive distaste for the man, just an intensely profound amount of pity.
Reminiscent of, the excellent 2004 drama, Closer there was always this uncomfortable awkwardness to watching two people's lives fall apart, and personally you might have to worry if you take some sadistic pleasure in viewing such a film. Like all good pieces of Indie-Americana cinema it also features a touching score from the folk act, Grizzly Bear.
Blue Valentine bleakly provokes the question of why we all fall in love, if there is such a thing as 'love at first sight' and presents the rather humanistic answers such questions and consequences throw at us. Williams and Gosling's chemistry is remarkable and deserves its plaudits, just best not to go see this one on a first date. If this film is anything to go by, love is black and blue but thankfully there's still a hint it can still be heart-warmingly red all over.
Blue Valentine is UK cinemas now. Belfast audiences will be able to see the film in Queen's Film Theatre from Friday 4th February.