“I know I’m a chain-smoking, drunken slob but I can change”. Ok, he doesn’t say this in so many words but this is essentially the flawed argument put forward by Dean (Ryan Gosling) to save his marriage to Cindy (Michelle Williams) in the heartbreaking movie Blue Valentine. Not surprisingly she is unconvinced: “I can’t do this anymore”.He is still in love with Cindy and in desperation he books them into a love hotel in the ironically named ‘future room’. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but I would say that courting couples seeing that the movie is billed as a ‘love story’ should be warned that this is no date movie.

Many of the scenes incorporate improvised dialogue and the performances of Gosling and Williams are exceptional; almost painfully realistic when the relationship begins to disintegrate. This is only the second movie by young filmmaker Derek Cianfrance who risked financial ruin to get this movie made.

Fortunately it is getting the critical praise it deserves. It works not because of the originality of the story but because it is presented in such an honest, unpretentious way. It has a great soundtrack by Grizzly Bear and features a mystery  R’n’B song ‘You And Me’ by Penny and the Quarters believed to have been recorded in the 1970s though no one can trace exactly when or where. The story is all the more poignant through the presentation of the flashbacks to the couple’s rapid courtship 6 years before things started to go pear-shaped. Particularly touching is a scene after they’ve just met where she tap dances as he plays a toy guitar and sings the pop standard ‘You always hurt the one you love’ :

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