Love Is a One-Way Street in "Blue Valentine"

Derek Cianfrance's divorce drama Blue Valentine is the story of how a couple (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) travels from too-cute introduction to irreconcilable differences in just over half a decade. Starting with the present-day married-with-kid Dean and Cindy, Cianfrance weaves long flashbacks of Dean and Cindy's early days through the film, ultimately dovetailing the couple's wedding day with the last moments of their marriage. It's a gimmick but not necessarily a bad one: In the film's final act, as the parallel tracks veer in wildly different tonal directions, Cianfrance's montage increases in fluidity, and the crescendo it all comes to is effective. But the filmmaker seems uninterested in imbuing his female character with the rich interior life and complicated morality he gives his male lead. Cindy is written as a cipher, inexplicably veering from indifferent to Dean to purringly hot for him (and not just him — in an infuriating scene set in a women's clinic, Cianfrance gives us just enough information about Cindy's past to be able to write her off as a tempestuous slut) and then back to uninterested. It's one thing that Dean has no clue who his wife really is, but in a film that purports to study intimacy, the filmmaker could give us more of a glimpse. Without it, Cindy isn't just a heartbreaker — she's a villain.


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