Con­di­tional love

Pasatiempo - - Mov­ing Images - Laurel Glad­den For The New Mex­i­can

Blue Valen­tine, romantic drama, rated R, Re­gal DeVar­gas, 3.5 chiles

IDear Abby, My friend Cindy is a sweet, smart, car­ing girl. She stud­ies hard, does well in school, and wants to be a doc­tor. She pays reg­u­lar vis­its to her grand­mother in an as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­ity. She also dreams of find­ing true love, de­spite the fact that her fa­ther is rude and abu­sive, her grand­mother says that her grand­fa­ther “didn’t re­ally have any re­gard for me as a per­son,” and her jerky ex-boyfriend got her preg­nant.

Re­cently, Cindy met a young man named Dean, who she thinks he is her Prince Charm­ing. Dean has a good heart and is very romantic (I think he’s plan­ning to pro­pose), but he’s im­ma­ture and doesn’t have any pro­fes­sional am­bi­tions. He paints houses for a liv­ing and drinks a lot — he likes the fact that his job al­lows him to have a beer at 8 in the morn­ing. I can’t help but worry that Cindy and Dean are ill suited for each other, and I worry what this will mean for them and the baby. Must I sit idly by and watch their lives im­plode? Sin­cerely, Blue Valen­tine

I don’t know what Abby would say about this sit­u­a­tion, but I ad­vise you to buy a ticket for this exquisitely painful new film, directed and co-writ­ten and by Derek Cian­france, which presents the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Wil­liams, nom­i­nated for a best-ac­tress Os­car) in ex­cru­ci­at­ingly re­al­is­tic, al­most doc­u­men­tary-like de­tail. For nearly two hours, you will play fly on the wall as Cindy and Dean’s love train de­rails and their mar­riage comes screech­ing to a heart­break­ing halt. It’s dif­fi­cult to watch, but it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to look away.

The film opens at the Penn­syl­va­nia home that Cindy and Dean, now mar­ried, share with their young daugh­ter, Frankie (the adorable Faith Wla­dyka). Cian­france plunges us into the mid­dle of things without us­ing clunky chunks of ex­pos­i­tory di­a­logue, and pretty quickly we un­der­stand that the sit­u­a­tion isn’t good.

When con­fronted with a prob­lem or a fail­ure, most of us look back to see if we can dis­cern a cause. To show us Dean and Cindy’s his­tory and help us un­der­stand how they got where they are, Cian­france weaves in flash­backs. He does it grace­fully, though: “five years ear­lier …” never flashes across the screen, for ex­am­ple. Rather, dis­creet vi­su­als give us clues about the time and place. When Dean and Cindy are still young hip­sters “meet­ing cute” and court­ing, Cian­france films with a bouncy hand­held cam­era, a wide per­spec­tive, and bright, warm col­ors and light. In later days, the fo­cus is tight, the col­ors are cold, and some rooms ap­pear stuffy and air­less. Dean’s Valen­tine with an NC-17 rat­ing for “ex­plicit sex­ual con­tent” (af­ter an ap­peal by the stu­dio, the board changed the rat­ing to an R). Frankly, not much of the film’s sex­ual con­tent struck me as overly ex­plicit or out of place. Maybe what the MPAA ac­tu­ally saw as less teen-friendly was the re­al­is­ti­cally grim idea that young love is some­times doomed to fail and that, as the song goes, “we al­ways hurt the one we love — the one we shouldn’t hurt at all.” Cian­france and his co-writ­ers seem dead-set on dis­pelling tra­di­tional no­tions like “love at first sight” and “the One” and the idea that a mar­riage should be pre­served no mat­ter the cost.

So what, ex­actly, went wrong for Dean and Cindy? Un­for­tu­nately,

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