Is it better to watch something that takes you away from the mundane trials of everyday life or something people can find relatable? Are movies only classified as “good” when they have a happy ending? Or, would we rather leave it undefined, therefore determining the ending for ourselves? This is the underlying theme of the 2010 romantic drama Blue Valentine: inquisitive.
Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, this film cut back and forth between the past and present of a working class married couple. Dean Pereira (Gosling) started as a high school drop out working for a moving company in New York City. He grew up in a broken home and never really knew his own mother. Not looking for marriage or children, Dean met Cindy Heller (Williams) who was a pre-med student living with her constantly fighting parents. As the plot thickens, Cindy finds out that she is pregnant from her previous boyfriend and is coerced into telling Dean. He decides he wants to be a part of Cindy’s life and helps raise her daughter, Frankie, as if she were his own. Throughout the entirety, the film takes you back and forth between troubling present scenarios and the past of how they came about. Although the general idea was portrayed clearly, the back and forth kept the inquiries high all the way through the ending.
For example, in the final scene Dean and Cindy are adamant about the fact that they can not get along and do not belong together. However, given their backgrounds Dean does not want Frankie to grown up in a broken home and Cindy does not want her daughter to be around constant arguing. So it ends with Dean walking away and Frankie calling after him, but returning to her mother. Hence the first series of questions: do they get back together? Which situation is worse for a young child? Then one has to wonder about the cliff hanger itself; should there have been a definite answer? Of course these are uncertainties that must be answered for the viewers themselves. Perhaps some endings are better left unsaid so that the thoughts remain lingering even after the 112 minutes are over.
As for the acting, both Gosling and Williams received numerous award nominations for best actor and actress. Awards were won for Most Promising Film Maker (Derek Cianfrance) at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and Best Actress at the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Williams was also nominated for an Oscar at the Academy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Usually it is difficult to judge an actor once they have become known for a certain role. For instance, Ryan Gosling played a less dramatic, yet similarly romantic character in The Notebook as Noah Calhoun. However, he truly embraced this aggressive, love starved character whose ultimate goal was a happy family.
No one has all the answers. Amongst all of the themes to be taken from this motion picture the most prominent was that it is often best to take a challenging situation and make the best of it by any means necessary. Whether or not those means are good for everyone within that situation is a different story. Which leaves one final question unrelated to the story, but for the title: why Blue Valentine?