Blue Valentine

“Blue Valentine” is a movie about how falling in love does not guarantee a future together.  It is about the fact that, even though two people may want to commit to one another for life, they may not actually be able to do so.  Cindy wonders whether the fact that she has been raised in such a terrible household will preclude her ability to ever trust her feelings when she thinks she is in love.  It turns out: she can’t.

Gabriel Marcel puts the problem in similar terms:“In other words, isn’t it a serious mistake to transpose credit in the realm of feelings and acts?  Isn’t it strictly more honest to live by paying on delivery — to imitate in short those valetudinarians whom we are all acquainted with, who never accept an invitation categorically and who say: I can’t promise anything, I’ll come if it’s possible, don’t count on me…?”  Is that all we can be trusted to say to another person?

That seems to be all that Cindy and Dean are capable of.  They seem to be in Marcel’s vicious circle: “In principle, to commit myself I must first know myself; the fact is, however, that I really know myself only when I have committed myself.”  The solution is to cultivate oneself as the kind of person who regularly commits oneself wholeheartedly, without selfish reservation, for the sake of other persons.  There is a training that takes place in this commitment of the self, a training that takes one beyond the kind of person who will always want to say “I’ll come if it’s possible,” the kind of person for whom marriage will always be a disaster.

Cindy and Dean have never had that training. So when they try for the first time to fully commit, they realize that they don’t have the prerequisites.  And the result is heart wrenching.

At one point Cindy tells Dean a joke while they are sitting on a bus.  A child molester and a kid are walking into a dark forest.  They go further and further in until it gets very dark.  Finally the kid looks up at the child molester and says, “I’m starting to get scared.”  The molester looks back at him and replies, “you think you’re scared?  I’m the one who has to walk out of here alone.”

I took this “joke” to be a metaphor for Cindy and Dean together.  Both are scared.  Both see themselves as both the victim and the perpetrator.  Neither of them trusts themselves nor the other.  And so eventually, after walking for so long in darkness, terrified of themselves and what they are capable of inflicting, each of them is forced to walk away alone.  That is precisely what happens in the final scene, and its profoundly miserable.

  • http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/kylecupp/ Kyle R. Cupp

    This was my takeaway from the film:

    Blue Valentine is a romantic drama that’s difficult to watch because it painstakingly marries Dean’s hope to Cindy’s despondency: I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted the two to stay together or whether or not it would be good for them to continue on their up and down, but mostly downward path. Even if Dean and Cindy were to rekindle their love, would it matter in the long run? I sympathized with Dean’s desire to stay true to his marriage vows, but I also understood Cindy’s depression, disillusionment, and realization that their marriage may have been a mistake. It’s fair to wonder if she ever really loved him, or if she settled against her better judgment while in a moment of heart-wrenching vulnerability.

    But you get bonus points for bringing up my buddy Marcel.

  • brettsalkeld

    Ron Rolheiser says that it is one thing to believe, understand and teach the Church’s understanding of marriage and family and another thing to form people who are actually capable of living it.