A Thai Zen master is asked about his cup, perched precariously on the edge of a shelf, and why he doesn’t keep it safer. He replies that the cup is already broken. He drinks from it and enjoys it but when the wind knocks it over he says ‘of course’, he had already let it go.
How do you apply that principle to a heart, however, when you first meet someone and the world finally makes sense and everything is right. Those feelings of happiness, excitement, motivation, energy and more than anything, the sense of possibility that anything can happen.
Director Derek Cianfrance did it by taking 13 years to show, not tell, where the love went. He split the movie in two, one part showing the young couple who have just met and the other showing the same couple five years later in a disintegrating marriage. The first part of Dean and Cindy’s story was shot documentary style with no second takes. There is a spontaneity to Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling that is happily demonstrated with a tap dance to a ukulele in a shop doorway and it’s easy to spot the love in the air.
The second part of the movie was filmed after the actors lived together in a house as a family with their movie daughter and with a completely different style to the first. The scenes were made up of close ups of Michelle Williams’ face, the weariness arising from actual shots being filmed over and over again and only the later ones being used. Tiredness and claustrophobia are created until they are an actual part of the story.
The film was brilliantly done and the director was flawless in his planning but it was the story that was the most touching. The juxtaposition of the old with the new was a great example of the disappointment we carry around with us when things don’t live up to their potential. Being a nurse is admirable but not if you wanted to be a doctor. There is no letting go of the past for either of them and we watch it happen and nod in recognition. Accepting that the cup is already broken is a lot harder when someone keeps reminding you of what it was like when it was whole.
Blue Valentine is showing at the Watershed until 27 January, Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol.