ďBlue ValentineĒ
 
            This movie seems, at first glance, to have a lot going against it.  It depends almost exclusively on two actors who are neither the most famous nor the most critically-acclaimed.  The Writer/Director has done television documentaries, but does not possess high-powered Hollywood credentials.  And the only other thing he wrote was more than a decade ago.  The screenplay skips back and forth between present and past, sometimes, seemingly, in the middle of a conversation.  And it defies easy categorization.  It certainly isnít a romantic comedy.  Or an action/adventure.  Or an historical epic.  Or one of those cutesy-animated-CGI-offerings.  Though itís easier to say what it isnít than what it is, here goes:  itís the intense study of one marriage.  One relationship, husband and wife, with one little girl, whom they both love.  But itís not really about the parenting.  In a way, that partís easy.  Itís about trying to connect with each other, and stay connected.  Now thereís the hard part.
            Ryan Gosling stars as Dean, a blue-collar guy who works for a moving and storage company.  When he helps an older gentleman into a nursing home, he carefully decorates the room with photographs, an old soldierís uniform, and other personal mementos:  just because thereís obviously no one else to do it.  And itís this evident kind-heartedness that attracts the young woman named Cindy (Michelle Williams) whose mother lives across the hall at the same nursing home.
            Cindy works as an assistant at a doctorís office, when growing up she said she wanted to be a doctor.  Her mother and her father are in an intact relationship, technically, but they have learned, over the years, how to ignore and punish and belittle and emotionally wound one another, and this is the only role model Cindy knows.  Sheís pretty, but she lacks self-confidence, and so dresses somewhere between modest and shabby.  She may be underachieving, both in career choice and her selection of mates, and maybe that has to do with self-esteem issues, but who knows, really, all the unspoken reasons why we make the choices we do?
            Dean, for his part, loves his daughter unconditionally, and is so good with her that you just want to applaud his Daddy-ness.  But with his wife, he canít be unconditional.  He wants reciprocity.  Heís trying to re-kindle the spark that ignited their romance in the first place.  Heís trying to get past her distractedness, her weariness, and the way she just doesnít deal with the intimacy issues that are tearing him up inside.  Yes, heís the one with the quick temper, but as we watch how madly he loves her, and how deeply disappointed he is in her disinterest, we begin to understand the depth of his frustration.
            Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both just incredible.  Their naked vulnerability, both literally and figuratively, is just astounding to behold.  Their chemistry, both compelling and repulsive, is alternately appealing and repugnant.  They try so hard, in their own ways, and yet they just canít figure out how to make it all work.  And that feels so real it hurts.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas