An Ode to Blue Valentine

Rated Greg’s Top 5 Breakup Movies

  1. Blue Valentine
  2. Celeste and Jessie Forever
  3. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  5. Like Crazy

What’s it like to watch a breakup movie with your significant other?  Can someone let me know?  Maybe an anonymous guest post?  How uncomfortable is it?  I’ve never been in that situation before but one time many years ago I made the mistake of eating a steak dinner while watching The Walking Dead, and I’m wondering if it’s a similar experience.  Obviously it depends on how solid a couple is at the time, but talk about playing relationship Russian roulette.

The first time I saw Blue Valentine was in 2011 or 2012.  I remember I got the Netflix DVD package in the mail and secretly watched it in the Columbia Heights house I shared with four roommates/best friends. Didn’t tell anyone what I was up to.  Nosy-ass Justin might have even asked me what came in the mail and I probably lied, being too insecure to suggest a bro-sesh house viewing of a Gosling/Michelle Williams romance.  Tucked away in my bedroom, my first impression was that it was pretty good and could understand why it was critically acclaimed, but I never felt any desire to revisit the film until recently.   Director Derek Cianfrance, who also made the Gosling bank robbing epic Place Beyond The Pines, has an HBO mini series coming out next month that looks excellent.  What better time to circle back to his feature debut. 

Upon a quarantine Friday night rewatch, I’m not really sure why Blue Valentine struck such a bigger chord this go round.  It’s not like the trauma portrayed is more personally relatable to me in 2020 than it was eight years ago, except for maybe Gosling’s character’s quite jarring hairline.  Perhaps going a month without being within 6 feet another human being makes you more sensitive to witnessing the highs and lows of an up close love story.  Or perhaps I just wasn’t mature enough back then to fully grasp how fucking incredible this movie is.  It honestly WRECKED me. 

Marriage Story got a lot of buzz for how raw and candid it portrayed the disintegration of a marriage, but Blue Valentine makes last year’s Netflix darling look like Moonlighting*.  It’s far and away the superior film in terms of gut punching heartaches and realism, achieved in a heavily improvised fashion that you can’t look away from.  While watching I was truly staggered as to why this seemed so different than other breakup counterparts, and learned after the fact that they were able to achieve this dynamic because Cianfrance ordered Gosling and Williams to live alone in a house together for a month prior to filming, even making them go grocery shopping together.  I wonder if they got into any fights regarding dishwasher-loading protocol (this is a hot topic among couples quarantining together according to a certain guys only text chain I’m on).  

*Full disclosure: I’ve never actually seen Moonlighting, so apologies if this analogy makes no damn sense.

I fully realize this description of Blue Valentine doesn’t make you want to run over to your TV, open up Netflix, and start it immediately.  Especially in a pandemic.  People are looking for feel-good stuff these days, not the opposite.  The thing is though at least a third of this movie does pull at your heartstrings, the good heart strings. Unlike Marriage Story you do get to see the beginning of love at first sight and a quite lovely courtship between the two stars.  It’s what makes the downfall of the relationship hit that much harder.  So lets steer into the skid.  Streaming on Netflix. Grade: A+