Blue Valentine (UK - BD RB)
Marcus gets bummed out as Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams break up
Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple on the brink of another and possibly final break up. Finding out how they got to this point and how they first got together Blue Valentine charts how a relationship can go sour and the elements that got the couple where they are.
The initial trailer for Blue Valentine (y’know the one where Ryan Gosling is playing ukulele while Michelle Williams dances outside of a shop at night) put this movie quite high on my ‘must sees’ of last year. I've really liked both of these actors quite a bit in their previous roles (yes, even The Notebook) and there was a real good vibe coming out of that trailer.
Unfortunately outside of a couple of great performances I found Blue Valentine to be incredibly bleak and not really the movie I thought it was going to be. All of the scenes of the pair getting together are great. Gosling keeps that charm he’s so good at throughout and between him and Michelle Williams, there’s some real chemistry. Sadly, the latter half of their relationship isn’t enjoyable at all.
I know, I know, that’s the point right? This is out to depict a failing relationship, the arguments, the breakdown in communication and the juxtaposition to the decisions made with the best intentions in the couple's past but as the story bears on with its pretty graphic sex scenes, bleak conversations and increasingly depressing situations I found myself really disliking Michelle William’s character. I don’t want to deal in spoilers here but I totally sided with Gosling here, so much so that I wanted this pair to split up in a big bad way.
At its core there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Blue Valentine outside of my own personal dislike of this sort of depressing situation, in fact it's one of the most brutally honest dramas I've seen in a while, to the point where it's uncomfortable to watch in places. The movie has two very strong performances, the entire fallout feels genuine and it’s a very brave approach to have a movie focus so realistically on a pretty messy break up but outside of respecting all involved in the movie for what they’re trying to achieve the idea of watching this one again is too depressing a thought to consider anytime soon.
Honestly I was surprised Blue Valentine looked this good. After my first viewing of the movie it struck me as quite a dark gritty looking affair, but the HD transfer here looks fantastic.
There is a layer of grain but really it’s only apparent in the darker scenes and even then it sells the style of the movie well. When the image has bright light on it everything is strikingly sharp and clean, skin textures are great, deep black shadows look great and the reds and blues here really jump off of the screen. Many of Williams' costumes, though simple are really striking colour wise and some of the neon lighting in the couple's futuristic motel room come off of the screen and felt like it was lighting up my living room.
All in all I really liked the look of this transfer and outside of the odd shot that shows the low budget, fans of the movie are in for a real treat because I don’t remember Blue Valentine looking anywhere near this good when I saw it in the cinema.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t really utilised for the most part of the movie. The dialogue driven scenes live almost entirely in the front speakers and this really doesn’t need to use the bass either but the odd moment has some noticeable exceptions.
There are a few exterior scenes where the crickets and birds fill out the rear speakers to great results. The atmosphere feels like you’re genuinely outside. It may have been the change from simple dialogue to other elements coming in that made it feel more impressive but it was still noticeable. The music selection on the soundtrack can often hover around the rear speakers pretty well as well. They tend to grow with the emotion of the quieter scenes and their presence is really felt in subtle ways.
Trailers that open the disc are Biutiful, I Saw the Devil and Rubber. When we hit the extras we have the deleted scenes (20:04 SD) which had a hand full of great snippets especially with Dean and his friend in the car talking about advice with women.
The ‘Q&A’ (39:58 HD) is with the cast and crew in front of a room full of press. It’s a great little insight into the film and covers the choice to have the cross cutting time frames and how the actors had to play their roles with a whole lot of detail and it really is a treat to watch for fans of Gosling or Williams.
‘Making of Blue Valentine’ (13:50 HD) is a slightly above average straight forward making of with the director and the cast telling the detail while on a press tour intercut with clips from the movie.
‘Home Movies’ (05:50 SD) is the home movies Gosling and Williams made for the film in character. It’s authentic looking home video stuff and adds a bit of family history to the characters.
Moving onto the commentary with director Derek Cianfrance and editor Jim Helton, the track is a friendly laid back affair and once you get over the fact Cianfrance sounds an awful lot like Gosling you realise the information they bring to the us highlights a lot of the director's personal stories of what led to the writing of the story as well as the inspiration for specific scenes. There’s also a lot or great stories about the making of the movie and how a lot of moods were created including how when burying the family's dog, Gosling actually dug the hole himself to make himself psychically exhausted in preparation for the scene. The track, like the movie has a lot of dead air but it’s never for long periods and in a way adds a lot of weight to what the contributors have to say.
Last up is the trailer (01:52 HD) which is still a fine example of how to make a trailer and a joy to watch.
I’m sort of in awe of Blue Valentine's bravery and the performances here are absolutely fantastic, but the subject matter really bummed me out and the juxtaposition of this couple finding each other and then their relationship falling apart isn’t the sort of stuff I want to rush back to rewatch (though I found the second viewing less of a downer than I did the first, so who knows).
The disc looks really great and the audio, while low key, is still well designed, so with all that taken into account and then adding a batch of great features this really is a nice little package for fans of the movie. For those who are newbies it's certainly worth a look but you might not want to pick this one out for a wedding anniversary or anything—that would just be a terrible idea.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 9th May 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English HOH
Extras: Commentary, Q&A, Making of, Trailer, Home Videos
Easter Egg: No
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Length: 112 minutes
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