You don’t have to go very far to see how different people’s opinions on domestic abuse are. They range just as wildly as anything. After I’d watched Blue Valentine — the Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams (from Dawson’s Creek) film which caused such a stir when it came out in 2010 — I found myself on IMDB wanting to see what other people made of the film. Considering what I’d just taken in, parts of which horrified me no small amount, I was mildly surprised by what I found: a few people wondering what all the fuss was / is about, as if domestic abuse is something which always comes delivered in a fist and nothing else.
I don’t want to spoil the film for those people who haven’t seen it yet, but I think I can get away with saying this: Blue Valentine has a certain impact which, irrelevant of your opinion, is unmistakable. While there is no blood and very little actual violence, what does resonate powerfully is the contrast between the two time-lines which run parallel to one another throughout the entire film. As you follow the couple’s relationship in its earliest days, pre-marriage, and at the same time see the effect of certain events years later, you can’t help but experience a wave of emotions. Or at least I couldn’t. Because of this, Blue Valentine is both beautiful and nightmarish and in places wonderfully tender. In short, you really do feel as though the relatively small number of moments we the viewers get to witness provide a formula which will stay with you. After I’d turned the film off, I found that the seed began to grow, the formula expanding, allowing me to see everything in-between that the movie had alluded to.
Also impressive is Gosling and Williams’s on-screen relationship. Even in its dullest moments they are scintillatingly believable together, and the performances all-round match-up just as well.
Inhabiting a genre which is unlikely to be crowded for a long time to come — in fact, thinking in terms of genre, I struggle to think of more than 5 other films which fit neatly in — Blue Valentine could have easily been forgettable and all-too-easily brutal. Instead, and thanks to probably one of the best dramatic performances in recent years — you’ll know the scene when you see it — I can see people talking about this film in 10 or 20 years to come, and, when they do, the style the film was shot in — as if an invisible documentary maker was following the couple round at all times — will remain weirdly memorable.