I loved it like I loved the old Robert Redford movie The Way We Were and the Michelle Pfieffer and Bruce Willis movie The Story of Us. All of them wrestle honestly and realistically with marriage. All of them show the beauty and the deep struggle of keeping souls knit together. Brett McCracken (a fantastic film critic) reviewed the movie and I wanted to quote a few things from him about the movie:
They fall in love, for good reasons… As anyone does. And the struggles they eventually face are familiar, not unique to them. Do they make all the right choices? No. Do they give up too easily on their marriage? Perhaps. I think it’s clear that Blue Valentine doesn’t view its characters or their choices as perfect or prescriptive. We’re not meant to absolve these characters of their conduct, but neither are we meant to judge. It’s not a morality tale. What it is is an observation of two people trying to live out a real romance in a world that serves up fictional narratives of love at every turn.... It’s a world of dissonance between the romanticized love-as-escapism on one hand and the lived reality (divorced parents, rampant infidelity, porn) of love-as-disappointment on the other...
Insofar as I can see, all it aspires to be is a film about two particular modern-day American youths who, in the way they talk and flirt and think through love and romance, represent a broader swath of modern-day American youth. And to that it succeeds unquestionably...In Blue Valentine, amidst ubiquitous American flags, meatloaf, fireworks and city skylines, they lend a potent realism to the melodrama of the classic American love story, subverting it even while they salute it, joyful and mournful in equal measure.
Yeah, it was beautiful and real and sad. I was personally sobered. Michelle William's character is real - a teenager with great potential stuck in a small town with dysfunctional parents. She's depressed, she's longing to leave, and then she gets knocked up and is wooed and won by a sweet and quirky guy who decides he's going to take care of her and the baby. I love Ryan Gosling's character. He's sweet, committed, playful, and simple. He doesn't aspire to much but he is exceptional in his passionate defense of his family and his determination to enjoy life. And yet as time goes by Michelle sees him as a hick who isn't making anything of himself, drinks a lot, and comes to symbolize all that is trapping her in the life she wishes she could leave.
It seems to me that their marriage was fine. It was hitting the reality of the grind of daily life, but the marriage itself wasn't the problem. Michelle William's character was so stiff and clearly internally angry for some good reasons. Those reasons, though, didn't include her husband. It was her past, her life, her personal struggles to find where she fit, who she was, etc. She transferred her anger and resentment to her relationship with her husband, who in reality roots for her, is committed to her, and is a decent guy. I think she ruins the relationship because of her own baggage. In an attempt to escape her life she runs away from the best thing she has.
It sobered me because I could see myself doing the same thing. I can imagine myself one day struggling with life and sadness or anger or whatever and transferring that emotional struggle to my marriage. I could blame my own internal withdrawal on marital struggles, denying that it's me who needs to change and heal.
May it never be. On our road trip to Chicago I described the movie and my diagnosis of the real problem portrayed in it to Isaac. I told him I never wanted to blame my own personal struggles on our marriage. Marriage is too precious for that. He told me I should write it down so I don't forget it.
So I did.