Blue Valentine (film)

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Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDerek Cianfrance
Produced by
Written by
  • Derek Cianfrance
  • Cami Delavigne
  • Joey Curtis
Music byGrizzly Bear
CinematographyAndrij Parekh
Edited by
  • Jim Helton
  • Ron Patane
  • Hunting Lane Films
  • Silverwood Films
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release date
  • January 24, 2010 (2010-01-24) (Sundance)
  • December 29, 2010 (2010-12-29) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[2]
Box office$16.6 million[2]

Blue Valentine is a 2010 American romantic drama film written and directed by Derek Cianfrance. Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, and Joey Curtis wrote the film, and Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling played the lead roles and served as co-executive producers. The band Grizzly Bear scored the film. Blue Valentine depicts a married couple, played by Gosling and Williams, shifting back and forth in time between their courtship and the dissolution of their marriage several years later.

The film received critical acclaim and Williams was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, while Gosling received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.


Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a hopeless-romantic high-school dropout, working for a moving company in Brooklyn. Cindy (Michelle Williams) is an aspiring doctor studying pre-med while living with her bickering parents and caring for her grandmother in Pennsylvania. Her boyfriend, a fellow student named Bobby, brings her back to his place, where the two have intercourse, but he ejaculates inside her without her consent. This causes an angered Cindy to break up with him. Some time later, while Dean is delivering furniture to a nursing home in Pennsylvania, he runs into Cindy, who is visiting her grandmother. He gives her his number but she never calls; however, they coincidentally meet again on a bus and begin dating shortly afterwards. A jealous Bobby soon finds out and violently assaults Dean.

Cindy discovers she is pregnant and tells Dean he is unlikely to be the father. She opts for an abortion but cancels the procedure at the last moment. Dean comforts and reassures her that he wants to raise the child together. Cindy and Dean get married.

Five years later, the couple lives in rural Pennsylvania with their daughter, Frankie. Cindy is now a nurse at a clinic where her boss, Dr. Feinberg, had just offered her to join him at a different clinic in the near future. Meanwhile, Dean paints houses for a living while struggling with alcohol. One day, their missing family dog is found dead by the side of the road due to Cindy having left a gate unlocked, which further strains the couple's marriage. Despite Cindy's reluctance, Dean insists on a romantic getaway at a motel to relax and attempt to rekindle their relationship. Stopping by a liquor store, Cindy has an awkward encounter when running into Bobby, which causes an ensuing argument in the car between her and Dean.

At the motel, Dean repeatedly tries to seduce Cindy but she rebuffs him. Frustrated with Dean's lack of ambition, she questions him during dinner which leads to another argument. The two make up and get drunk but Cindy is displeased when Dean asks if she wants to have another child with him. They start fighting and she locks him outside the bedroom. Early in the morning, Cindy is called in for work. She takes the car and leaves a note for Dean. At the clinic, Dr. Feinberg recommends that Cindy get an apartment instead of moving her family, suggesting that they could keep each other company during the weekdays if she's lonely. Visibly upset, Cindy voices that she thought he offered the position because of her qualifications.

Back at the motel, an annoyed Dean finds the note and shows up drunk at the clinic where he has a heated argument with Cindy. Dean punches Dr. Feinberg, who fires Cindy and kicks them out. While leaving the clinic, Cindy demands a divorce. At her parents’ house, Dean tries to persuade Cindy to give the marriage another chance for the sake of Frankie. Cindy says she'd rather not have Frankie grow up with parents who despise each other.

After Dean reminds Cindy of their vows, they both apologize and hug but she pulls away. Dean leaves the house while Frankie runs after him and begs him to stay. He guides her into returning to Cindy and continues walking away. The film ends with photos of Dean and Cindy in the early stages of their romance.



Williams was 21 when she received the script in 2002 and Gosling committed to the production four years later, but filming did not begin until 2009, when Williams was 28 (as was Gosling), owing to Cianfrance's inability to find financing. The director was also unable to film the "young" and "older" scenes several years apart as he had hoped, again due to lack of money.[3] The film was to be shot in California but production was moved to Brooklyn, New York and Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Williams wanted to stay close to her Brooklyn home to take care of her daughter, Matilda (after the passing of Heath Ledger the year prior), so the director chose Honesdale due to its proximity to Brooklyn.

I took a compass and (...) literally put one point of the compass on her house, and I drew a circle, an hour diameter around her house, and it just touched Scranton, Pennsylvania. So the next day I drove to Scranton (...) and we said, 'We're shooting here'.

— Derek Cianfrance[4]

Gosling and Williams improvised dialogue; the scene in which their characters wander through New York together was unscripted, for example; the actors—who had both appeared in The United States of Leland (2003) but had not shared scenes—got to know each other during its filming.[3] Before filming the marriage dissolution between the main characters, Gosling and Williams prepared by renting a home, bringing their own clothing and belongings, buying groceries with a budget based on their characters' incomes, filming home movies and taking a family portrait at a local Sears with the actress who played their daughter, and staging out arguments.[3][5] Cianfrance visited the actors and assisted them in building tension while remaining in character: "One night he told Gosling to go into Williams' bedroom and try to make love to her. Gosling, soundly rejected, ended up sleeping on the couch."[5]

The film was shot in Super 16mm and Red One. The former was used for the pre-marriage scenes and the latter was used for the post-marriage scenes.[6] Andrij Parekh used only one professional light in the filming of the outside scenes, otherwise using only practical lights for the inside scenes.

While on The Hollywood Reporter Director's Roundtable, Cianfrance said that he had given up his entire director's fee to help fund the film: "I mean, it came down to we were exactly my fee short. They paid me and I just paid it back. So I still have to pay taxes on it, you know. So I actually had to pay to make the movie."[7]


Gosling wrote and performed some songs by himself. The band Grizzly Bear composed the score of the film. A soundtrack for the film was released by Lakeshore Records.

One of the film's feature songs, "You and Me", which is presented as the couple's personal song, was originally recorded as a demo by a group called Penny & The Quarters for the obscure Prix Label of Columbus, Ohio in the early 1970s. It was re-released on a compilation album by the Numero Group in 2007 without the members of the group being identified.[8]


The film premiered in competition at the 26th Sundance Film Festival. The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival[9] and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15, 2010.[10] In Australia, the film was released on December 26, 2010 through Palace Films.[11] In the United States, it was distributed by The Weinstein Company as a limited release on December 29, 2010.[12]


On October 8, 2010, Blue Valentine was given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for American cinemas. This was due to a scene depicting cunnilingus.[13] Gosling accused the MPAA of sexism and misogyny. "There's plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it's a man receiving it from a woman – and they're R-rated. Ours is reversed and somehow it's perceived as pornographic", he stated.[14][15] The Weinstein Company appealed the decision and aimed for an R without any trims to the film, believing the prior decision would significantly harm the film's potential box office take in the United States.[16] The appeal was successful on December 8, 2010, and the film received an R rating.

The film was given an uncut 15 certificate from the British Board of Film Classification.[17]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 10, 2011. Special features include an audio commentary with director Derek Cianfrance, a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and home movies.[18] The film has grossed $5,336,207 through US video sales.[19]


Critical response[edit]

Blue Valentine received critical acclaim.[20] Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 87% of 209 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 7.80/10. The website's critical consensus states: "This emotionally gripping examination of a marriage on the rocks isn't always easy to watch, but Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling give performances of unusual depth and power."[21] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 81 out of 100 based on 42 reviews, meaning "universal acclaim".[22]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4, and wrote: "Dean seems stuck. He seems to stay fixed at the initial stage. Can you see the difference between (1) "He loves me as much as he always did", and (2) "He loves me exactly like he always did"? I've read reviews saying Cianfrance isn't clear about what went wrong as they got from there to here. Is anybody?"[23]

Top ten lists[edit]

Blue Valentine was listed on many critics' top ten lists.[24]


In 2006, the script won the Chrysler Film Project, a competition that awards cash to an outstanding new feature film director overseen by Independent Feature Project.[25]

List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[26] February 27, 2011 Best Actress Michelle Williams Nominated
Casting Society of America[27] 2011 Artios Award for Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Low Budget Feature – Drama/Comedy Cindy Tolan,
Richard Hicks (LA Casting Consultant),
David Rubin (LA Casting Consultant)
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[28] December 20, 2010 Best Actor Ryan Gosling Nominated
Best Actress Michelle Williams Nominated
Most Promising Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance Won
Golden Globe Awards[29] January 16, 2011 Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Ryan Gosling Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Michelle Williams Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards[30] November 29, 2010 Best Film Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[31] February 26, 2011 Best Actress Michelle Williams Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Awards[32] February 10, 2011 Best Actor Ryan Gosling Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Awards[33] January 3, 2011 Best Actor Ryan Gosling Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards[34] December 14, 2010 Best Actress Michelle Williams Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards[35] December 13, 2010 Best Actress Michelle Williams Won
Satellite Awards[36] December 19, 2010 Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Ryan Gosling Nominated
Best Actress Michelle Williams Nominated


  1. ^ "BLUE VALENTINE (15)". Optimum Releasing. British Board of Film Classification. December 17, 2010. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Blue Valentine (2010)". The Numbers. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Riley, Jenelle (December 8, 2010). "Scenes from a Marriage". Back Stage. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  4. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (January 18, 2011). "Hearts of darkness". The Weekender. Archived from the original on February 2, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Hall, Katy. "Blue Valentine: How Derek Cianfrance Destroyed Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling's Marriage". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
  6. ^ Heron, Ambrose (December 30, 2010). "Blue Valentine". FILMdetail. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  7. ^ "THR Director's Roundtable" on YouTube, accessed October 6, 2011.
  8. ^ "Penny, the Quarters, and where their share of the Blue Valentine quarters are". Numero Group: By The Numbers. January 18, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Leffler, Rebecca (April 15, 2010). "Hollywood Reporter: Cannes Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  10. ^ Lambert, Christine (2010), "Blue Valentine premiere – 35th Toronto International Film Festival",, retrieved April 7, 2012
  11. ^ "Palace Films to release Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams". Filmink. March 19, 2010. Archived from the original on February 27, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  12. ^ "The Weinstein Company Sets Dec. 31 Release Date For Blue Valentine, Picks Up The Company Men & Schedules 2010 Slate". The Playlist. March 24, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
  13. ^ Semigran, Aly (October 18, 2010). "Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams' Blue Valentine Gets NC-17 Rating: Why This Makes Us, Well, Blue". MTV. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  14. ^ Ehrlich, David (December 8, 2010). "'Blue Valentine' NC-17 Rating Reversed; Ryan Gosling Accuses MPAA of Sexism" Archived May 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine., accessed October 17, 2011.
  15. ^ Smith, Peter (November 19, 2011). "Ryan Gosling calls MPAA misogynistic over NC-17 rating for Blue Valentine oral-sex scene"., accessed October 17, 2011.
  16. ^ Karger, Dave (October 14, 2010). "Weinstein Co. appealing Blue Valentine NC-17". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  17. ^ Stewart, Sara (December 8, 2010). "Slightly less blue Valentine". New York Post. Archived from the original on February 27, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  18. ^ "Blue Valentine [Blu-ray]". Cinema Blend, accessed October 5, 2011.
  19. ^ "Blue Valentine" The Numbers, accessed December 8, 2016.
  20. ^ DeMarco, Laura (February 11, 2015). "Five sexually-charged films that faced ratings controversies before 'Fifty Shades of Grey'". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  21. ^ "Blue Valentine (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  22. ^ "Blue Valentine Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 5, 2011). "The train has left the station". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  24. ^ Dietz, Jason (December 9, 2010). "2010 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  25. ^ Kay, Jeremy (September 19, 2006). "Blue Valentine wins $1m Chrysler Film Project contest". Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  26. ^ "Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  27. ^ "2011 Artios Award Nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Casting". Casting Society of America. 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  28. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards - 2008-2010". Chicago Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on February 24, 2010. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  29. ^ "Nominations and Winners - 2010". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  30. ^ Adams, Ryan (October 18, 2010). "2010 Gotham Independent Film Award Nominations". AwardsDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
    Adams, Ryan (November 29, 2010). "20th Anniversary Gotham Independent Award winners". Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  31. ^ "2011 Nominees" (PDF). Independent Spirit Awards. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  32. ^ Ng, Philiana (December 20, 2010). "The King's Speech, Another Year Lead Nominations at London Critics' Circle Film Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  33. ^ Stone, Sarah (December 27, 2010). "Online Film Critics Society Nominations". Retrieved January 26, 2011.
    Stone, Sarah (January 3, 2011). "The Social Network Named Best Film by the Online Film Critics". Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  34. ^ "2010 Awards". San Diego Film Critics Society. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  35. ^ "The San Francisco Film Critics Pick The Social Network". awardsdaily. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  36. ^ "2010 Nominations" (PDF). International Press Academy. Retrieved January 26, 2011.

External links[edit]