4.0, United States/Canada

Blue Valentine

#6: Blue Valentine by Derek Cianfrance. In the ten days leading up to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, I listed my ten favorite films of 2010, each accompanied by a custom Criterion Collection cover inspired by Sam Smith’s Top 10 of 2010 Poster Project.

2010 / Derek Cianfrance > A brutally honest dissection of a crumbling marriage. Young love, in and out of love. The process is painful, but what sets Blue Valentine apart from a pityfest is Cianfrance’s ability to conjure the magical moments that made all the pain worth it. The cynic in me argues that romance is an ideal brought forth by the media for capitalist gain. But that’s just silly: We all want to be loved, but it just so happens that we don’t always know the best way to be loved. It’s become a game of politics in the modern-age, driven at its core by the free flow of information and ease of physical travel: Twenty years ago, it was much harder to cheat on your husband. Now you can flirt all day as SxyGrl23 on a multitude of adult dating sites. And if someone catches your eye, Southwest Airlines will help you get away.

Boredom punishes us and jealousy weakens our dedication. That’s why relationships are hard work. That’s why we should cheer for those who don’t give up.
The film is founded on the incredible performances of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. The latter, by my count, is the best I’ve seen from 2010—though the Academy was quick to ignore him completely. They carry every scene with such raw beauty that it’s hard not to believe in every simple act. Nobody’s a villain. Everyone has their reasons, no matter how opaque. The brilliance of the script is its inability to judge people for being human. In fact, not since 2006’s Flannel Pajamas have we experienced such objective adoration for the act of romance and its subsequent disenchantment. Alas, if there’s another reason to cheer, it’s that Blue Valentine and Winter’s Bone have given us proof that independent cinema without pretension is alive and well in America.