Blue Valentine ★★★

"We're inside a robot's vagina." ~ Dean

The focus here is on a disintegrating marriage ... perhaps a marriage that should have never been. We gradually learn through flashbacks that medical assistant Cindy (Michelle Williams) and house painter Dean (Ryan Gosling) got married when she was a pregnant college student and he was a high-school dropout moving furniture for a living. Now they have a daughter named Frankie (Faith Wladyka), and Dean, who has lived his entire life in the tiny upstate community of Brooklyn, PA, is succumbing to alcoholism.

Essentially, writer-director Derek Cianfrance has given us a plotless relationship film that depends entirely upon its actors for success or failure. Fortunately, both Williams and Gosling were up to the occasion, turning in Golden-Globe-level performances and helping the film earn award nominations at Sundance and Cannes. Williams also made the Oscar shortlist for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

That's all well and good, of course, but my problem with this film, and others like it (such as What Maisie Knew), is that it shows us a problem and offers no solutions. We know these people are in a bad place in their lives, a trap of their own making, and they can't seem to find the exit. So they sink ever deeper into their morass of troubles. We can only observe and sympathize, which is rather depressing, don't you think?

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