Sex sells, especially in the movie world – but not if nobody actually gets to see your movie. Saucy clinches shared by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine stirred up a scandal in America this year, where the MPAA decided that the film’s raunch factor warranted an NC-17 certificate – basically, a film version of the kiss of death.
Sit down with Valentine, though, and there’s little apparent reason for the controversy. A grown-up account of two people falling in – and then devastatingly out of – love, it’s a bleaker version of last year’s eloquent (500) Days Of Summer. “It’s like when you hear a song and you just have to dance,” explains young Dean (Gosling) of his feelings for glacial beauty Cindy (Williams). Luckily, she feels the same. But fast forward five years and she’s getting frumpy, he’s got a thinning crop, and there’s a five year old stampeding around the house. The strain’s showing; when will things snap?
Played out via elegantly crafted flashbacks, director Derek Cianfrance’s sophomore feature is a dreamy, painfully honest examination of a stagnating relationship. Torturously teasing apart the threads in Dean and Cindy’s marriage, Cianfrance’s documentary experience pays off in hand-held, tightly-shot vignettes that will feel horribly familiar to anybody who’s dallied in a duff liaison. And yes, there is sex, but it won’t upset anybody but grandma. Even she probably won’t find it particularly riveting.
Because while the sex is what’s made the news, it’s Gosling and Williams’ fearless dramatic turns that mesmerize. It’s their efforts that ensure Valentine becomes a beautifully poignant slice of filmmaking, albeit a spectacularly depressing one. And what of the US rating quarrel? It’s all been ironed out after a painfully protracted appeal, the MPAA awarding the film a far more reasonable R. Love hurts, and you better believe it. 4/5
Via Out In The City