Did you ever wonder what happened to Cinderella after she married Prince Charming? Or Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters in… well, in all of them. Films offer a snapshot view of a character’s life, a glimpse of some particular event that can then be wrapped up neatly and handed over like a birthday present. One of the first things that you learn about story telling is that you need a beginning, a middle and an end, and there’s something comforting about going to the cinema and being transported into a tale for two hours then coming away with something to ponder on with friends over coffees or post-cinema dinners. But what happens when you strip a film of this structure?
The best summary of Blue Valentine is given by Cindy, the female lead, “I never want to be like my parents. I know they must’ve loved each other at one time right? How do you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that? ”
Blue Valentine is the ‘what happened next?’ scenario, unveiling the life that continues after the two romantic leads get married at the end of a film and the credits roll; we’re supposed to assume that they live happily ever after, they deserve it considering all they’ve been through, right? All cynical personal opinions aside, what this film presents to us is a more sober ever after where boy meets girl, they fall in love and all the rest but then life moves on as it often tends to do. We get glimpses of their courtship interwoven with the crucial final days of their marriage. Like any relationship, there are sides to take, but the beauty of Blue Valentine is that the storytelling is so sublime that you fully accept each side and comprehend the complexities of their relationship in a way that would be impossible in reality when that bird’s eye view is taken away.
Interestingly, what is most striking about this film is its simplicity. The palette is dark and basic for the present day, with vibrant memories starkly contrasting. The story is unpretentious and the acting is both natural and unassuming, so much so that Michelle Williams’ role earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards. That’s Oscars to you and me. A far cry from Dawson’s Creek if ever there was one.