|Michelle Williams & Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine|
Along with his co-writers Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis, Cianfrance in Blue Valentine seems to understand the ways in which pop songs can define the way we love. He underlines it by introducing the couple's song in a completely new way. And the song he's chosen has a fascinating history of its own which hauntingly mirrors the dashed hopes of the couple on the screen. Blue Valentine is a devastating and accomplished work, a heartbreaking film about the dissolution of the relationship between Dean and Cindy, but it's not told to us in linear time. Throughout the film, we jump back and forth and through the various moments in their love affair and marriage, those moments that are both poignant and ultimately wounding. Cinafrance nimbly contrasts those changes, too, even in the body language of the characters. As they both come to know each other, we can see in their bodies the eager and giddy anticipation of the sparks they hope to set off in each other. (It's there in the musical sway of their courtship.) But that eagerness is then boldly juxtaposed with the present, where the music is suddenly gone and a revulsion at being physically touched dramatically mirrors the ways in which their marriage is coming apart. In most romantic pictures, we usually hear the couple's song the first time they choose it, when it clearly signals the love they begin to feel for each other. And we come to believe in that song, just as Rick and Ilsa believe in "As Time Goes By." In Blue Valentine, we encounter their song early in the picture, but it comes late in their marriage when it no longer has any meaning left for them. It is, in fact, in a moment when Dean is desperately trying to get it back. Then we hear it again, later in the film. But this time, it's right at that moment when it first became their song, a moment that becomes unbearably wounding because we also now know where their marriage is heading.