I saw Blue Valentine this weekend with three girls, each smarter than the next, fully ready to analyze the hell out of this little film about a big bad relationship. We did so afterward at a tiny table in Nolita, sipping on beer with upset eyes and differing opinions. There is just so much to say!
Blue Valentine is tragic-- head to toe. It starts out lonely and ends hurtfully. I don't think it needed to be this mean, to be honest, but I guess therein lies the great big question of what makes fiction good, necessary, and transcendent.
Iris Murdoch once described love as "the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality." This is the secret of fiction. It offers a challenge—a challenge to try to understand that other people are real in the same way we are. That they are as complex, as sensitive, as capable of being hurt. Similarly, my girl Nicole describes fiction as "the ability to remind us of ourselves, of who we are in our essence, and at the same time deliver a revelation."
This is a surprisingly difficult thing to remember when entering movie world, as we tend to separate it fully from real life. We want to see OURSELVES up there, on that screen. We tend to merge Michelle Williams' Cindy with our own persona's, ignoring the fact that Cindy is as real as we are and doesn't need that crutch of relativity too easily offered in contemporary verse. Ryan Gossling isn't our ex-boyfriend and that's not your father. Get it?
The present culture encourages the opposite idea, that it's all about you. Good fiction that rejects that idea, and Blue Valentine achieves this tricky balance better than most. It's mean, yes indeed, but the vicious fights and unfair circumstance only serve to underline what is, in it's essence, a truly honest and beautiful love story.