jake kwiatkowski’s review published on Letterboxd:
Blue Valentine was one of those movies that I had to constantly try to invest myself in instead of just being swept up by it. The problem wasn't that it was boring, it was that there were so many flaws that stuck out to me that it made it hard to let it impact me the way I wanted it to. Or at least the way it wanted me to. I was trying to cry more than I was actually crying. I also feel like these are one of those movies that a large amount of people relate and identify with, which can also in part make them gloss over the flaws (not to say that I'm right, I'm not that conceded). That's also not to say that there aren't movies like that for me, I mean just look at Prince Avalanche and Repo Man.
Nevertheless, back to the subject at hand. The problem with Blue Valentine is that it feels forced. The way the story is told is that it looks at this relationship between two people, one from the past where they first met, and one in their future where their relationship is crumbling. Ryan Gosling's character is the most forced, and I didn't believe him very much at all. For one, his character is mainly used as a plot device. He doesn't feel real to me. Take for instance his appearance in the future storyline. Receding hairline, trashy sunglasses, sloppy facial hair and dirty mustache, and a greasy wifebeater shirt. Take that into consideration when they juxtapose that with him in the past (it isn't even supposed to be that long ago!) - He looks just like a model (as Gosling always does, swoon). Now when you tell me he turns into this gruff trailer-trash drunk bozo (because.. love?) in a matter of like five years, I don't believe it. It's played almost comically. He becomes a cartoon character. And then when every fight and conflict he and Michelle Williams have in the movie is because the script tells them to (instead of relying on good character building, he's just completely irrational for no good reason, and I get it he became a drunk or whatever but it doesn't work organically. You don't see him grow into this monster, he just sorta is, because the script tells him to. Michelle William's character is falling out of love with him, and I would have loved to see that happen more realistically instead of just him being a giant dickhead for no reason. And I get it, people change. It happens, and I've seen it in real life. The problem is that it isn't subtle here, but instead just irritatingly clunky and manipulative. Not to mention the other problems riddled in here, such as the uninspired dialog, the sometimes goofy "dramatic" acting, and a subplot concerning an angry ex that just sorta happens, but goes nowhere. It had incredible potential, but sadly Blue Valentine just tries really, really hard to impress you. And that can get grating.
But even with all of these issues, I can't say that I disliked it. I actually liked it quite a bit. There were special flourishes and moments that were lovely and heartbreaking, namely the shower scene in the motel and the end with the daughter (that was the only part where I actually cried, surprisingly enough). The score and the cinematography are amazing, not to mention how Cianfrance orchestrates his storytelling through visuals. The juxtaposition between the happy past and sad present can get contrived (nothing to the effect of what was done in Her, a masterpiece), but special scenes and how they were framed were just spectacular.
Blue Valentine is a bit of a mess. Really messy, actually. Though despite that I'd still give it a recommendation. Would kick the shit out of you if you're going through a bad break up, that's for sure. There's a guaranteed audience for this, and it's better than most romance movies. I'm kinda sad it disappointed me but I'm glad I at least got to see it. I guess the biggest thing I can walk away from with this movie is that it confirms you always end up hurting the people you love. Which is kinda cliched in its own right, but just because it's cliched doesn't mean it's any less true.
I just wish there were something more original here. I can see the vision, I can see the passion, I can see the direction it was heading. It just missed the goalpost by half a mile, in my book.