BLUE VALENTINE (Dir. Derek Cianfrane, 2010)
It's billed as "a love story", but BLACK VALENTINE is more accurately a toxic love story.
As a couple in the final stages of their marriage, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams go through the messy motions and as the film cuts back and forth from the beginning of their relationship to the present we see that they were doomed from the start.
In the present Gosling and Williams (who also co-executive produced the film) have a 4 year old daughter (Faith Wladyka) and live a fairly unremarkable existence in Pennsylvania- he paints houses; she works as a nurse.
In the past Gosling worked for a Brooklyn moving company and met Williams in a nursing home he was re-locating a senior to. Williams, there visiting her grandmother (Jen Jones) has a giggly spark when first meeting her later beau, and before long they're an item much to the chagrin of her former lover (Mike Vogel).
Williams is pregnant with Vogel's baby so there's that too.
In several sequences like one set in a blue-lit future-themed hotel room where Gosling hopes to re-ignite the couple's dying flame get into some emotionally wretching territory, but the film never wallows in misery.
Sometimes feeling like a series of sad snapshots of a doomed romance, "Blue Valentine" captures the tone and uneasiness of fading affection without a false move.
It's surprising that Williams got a Oscar Nomination for her work here and Gosling didn't. Don't get me wrong - William's nom is well deserved, but Gosling's restless intensity definitely equals hers.
A great Grizzly Bear soundtrack and graphic instances of sex and violence are intertwined inside the abstract construction of this film, but I bet what will linger more in the memory will be the raw moments between Gosling and Williams where they ache together yet still can not connect.
Like a heart made out of barbed wire, BLUE VALENTINE really stings.