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Blue Valentine (#64 out of 100)

April 3, 2013

In a world where everything is fleeting, it’s all too easy to see the desire of romantic love because it does everything in its power to declare itself as everlasting. As an intangible feeling it suggests this connection you’ve made with another person was always meant to be, that this is your purpose here, and that it has done something to you. Even the phrase of “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved” is meant to compliment people who have achieved that sense of permanence within themselves even as the actual accomplishment has become something of the past. No one is meant to walk away from something with this much potential and to feel that it was all for naught, and at the very least romantic love can accomplish that.

In Derek Cianfrance’s fictional debut, Blue Valentine, he pushes forward a couple, still young, and yet haunted by histories of conflicted marriages, lost emotion, and old age in their respective parents and grandparents. Dean and Cindy play out a normal weekend of a marriage, quietly conflicted and exhausting as any other as they raise a young daughter, but set themselves up for a crushing defeat they never saw coming; and to clarify the emotional turmoil of their relationship we’re allowed to see their past as developing young adults meeting each other by chance and finding a love and comfort in one another, still fraught with reality and pain but far more hopeful. This division subverts both their past and present images, Dean turning from a runaway Americana city boy into a blue-collar eagle-sweatered working day dad, and Cindy from a seductive blonde beauty into a more sexually oppressed aged mother. The balance of the spontaneity and naivety of a beginning relationship and the rote ritualism and hard-earned wisdom of a turbulent marriage suggests a universal parallel of American relationship woes, in a world where love is advertised and worshipped but difficult to obtain and even harder to keep.

Filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien, on his youth-focused masterpiece Millennium Mambo, lamented “Looking at the youthful friends around me, I find that their cycle and rhythm of ‘birth, age, illness, and death’ are moving several times faster than those of my generation.” The same could be said about “romance, love, courtship, and death of love”, and for the same reason: breaking from their past and trying to form their lives on their own, modern youth is far more fearless and bold, but also troubled and destructive. Their story and the way romance can be sometimes in a modern world is very much a swift collision of two people full of emotion and action who then explode off each other like balls of light from fireworks, eventually burning out as they become distant. It’s tragic because you can see how the mistakes of the past have added to their fate, but there’s something to celebrate in their story simply because it’s more real than anything else that’s happened to them or the people they know, their color having lightened up their life even for a few years.

From → Top 100

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