Blue Valentine (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

In a few days I’ll celebrate my one year wedding anniversary (ironically enough it’s May 1, the same day as the “birthday” to this site). As of this writing I’m 38 years old and I honestly didn’t see myself getting married any time before then. Of course, perceptions change when you meet the right person and a few years back…I did. Couple this with my younger brother who is three years younger and he’s been married going on fifteen years. To each his own, as they say. I mention this because there’s no “right” or “wrong” time to take that next step, though it’s sometimes painfully obvious to others when two people have taken that step and it was the wrong move. This is the case with the characters in “Blue Valentine”, the story of two working-class young adults who instantly fell for one another, but after a few years of marriage – something isn’t working.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) is currently a painter. He’s got musical talent and is a loving father, yet he’s content to do a job where he can drink a beer at 8’o clock in the morning. This is his life and he’s fine with it. He never graduated from high school, either. Then we’ve got Cindy (Michelle Williams). Cindy’s cute, but was too raised in a broken home. She lost her virginity at 13 years old and has had a couple dozen sexual partners. By some odd chance Dean meets Cindy and is instantly smitten with her. We see their life as they meet and in the present (we can tell because Dean’s hairline has receded in the present day) in somewhat of an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” homage. Cindy’s a hard-working nurse at a local doctor’s office, but it’s painfully obvious that the doctor (Ben Shenkman) likes her for more than her work ethic. As we go back and forth through time, we see the ups and downs of their relationship and the toll that it’s taken on them.

“Blue Valentine” isn’t an upbeat movie and now that I think of it, it really is a lot more like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or even “500 Days of Summer” in its narrative, non-linear form. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, there’s no right or wrong time to get married and the younger people are, the odds are higher that it might not work out. There’s somewhat of a depressing fact that nearly 50% of marriages will end up in divorce these days. But enough about that. I will say that this movie merited an Academy Award nomination for Michelle Williams, who was previously nominated for “Brokeback Mountain.” As good as Williams was, I think Ryan Gosling was just as good or even produced a better performance than her; yet he was overlooked by the Academy. Well, no one said that life was fair. While “Blue Valentine” might not bring a smile to everyone’s face, it is well-written and acted and certainly worth a look.

Video: How does it look?

In these days of movies pushing the boundaries of how “wide” a film can be, we have “Blue Valentine” shown in a 1.66:1 AVC HD transfer. There are two opposing looks to the film, the somewhat gritty, textured look of the “present” and the more polished look of the “past” when Cindy and Dean first meet. I don’t think I need to show you the symbolism there. The film is dark in both tone and physically. Many of the shots are quick moving and sometimes even out of focus, but it’s all part of the overall look of this film. Contrast is a bit off, but it’s intentional. Detail is solid as well as we can make out every hair on Gosling’s character’s face. If you’re looking for something warm and fuzzy, well my friends – you’ve come to the wrong film for that.

Audio: How does it sound?

If ever there was a film that doesn’t utilize every speaker, it’s this. While the included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is present, it doesn’t really matter. The majority of the film is entirely dialogue-driven so the center channel is certainly used here. The front speakers get a little bit of play and I think I heard a few peeps out of the surrounds, but that might have been the squirrels in the backyard. This isn’t a mix that will show off your system, but it does get the message across and that’s what counts.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The Blu-ray does come with a few supplements, but they’re well worth the effort. First up is an audio commentary with director Derek Cianfrance and editor Jim Helton. The duo discuss the making of this low budget film, the lack of production design and some of the tricks they employed while making this movie (the furniture movers in this film were actual furniture movers). Next up is “The Making of ‘Blue Valentine'” with some interviews with the cast and crew. Sadly this is your standard “Making of…” featurette. We also get four deleted scenes, but they run nearly twenty minutes in length. I’d have liked to see some of these in the movie. Finally we come to some home movies with “Frankie and the Unicorn” as we see Cindy and Dean in some rather different roles.

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