Why Blue Valentine? I was looking at films which inspire. I found As Good As It Gets about which I wrote. You can read here. And then, I found Blue Valentine. If you are a writer looking to write about marital relationships, from a real and modern perspective, then this film will surely get you. And take you to a place which will feel uncannily familiar and disturbingly true.
Relationships are probably the toughest thing to write about. It requires an understanding of human nature, which is fickle and unpredictable. It requires insight and empathy. Research and observation. Above all, it’s a study of human psychology and behaviour.
Inspiration. As writers it’s our duty to weave it all together and present it in a way that’s easy to comprehend, profound and yet entertaining. So in order to do it convincingly, I read books and watch films.
Quite often, I find inspiration in movies. I know it’s supposed to be the other way round. Books are supposed to inspire film makers. Strangely, films always inspire my writing.
Marriage gone wrong. Now, coming to Blue Valentine. It’s a story of a doomed marriage. The husband Dean is played by Ryan Gosling. The wife Cindy by Michelle Adams. They are so good in the parts they play that right from scene one, when Gosling wakes up to search for his missing dog, along with his daughter, you’re hooked.
You know something is wrong with the marriage not because they are squabbling or throwing pans at each other, but in the way they argue over simple things like breakfast or how Cindy dismisses Dean in the hotel, when he talks about himself and his belief in just being a dad and a husband.
Blue Valentine. We know they are two different people. Who want different things. And the joy in watching Blue Valentine lies in realising this through some real and profound moments. The cinematography aids the story telling. And the technique of revealing the romantic past of this couple in flashback and then tying it to the morose present works wonders. We know the unhappy end, yet hope something might change it. A miracle maybe. But the truth is, miracles don’t happen often…in reality. And when a film tells you so, as beautifully as Blue Valentine, you’re left to ponder for days.
Again, my aim here is not to go on and on about the film. Or review it. I wish to tell you why this film inspires my writing. It does because it portrays:
- Real people: It creates characters who are not cardboard cut outs. But three dimensional people who feel, argue, love, hate, offend each other. Dean, the blue-collared workman who discusses love with his co-worker is a romantic at heart. He’s also a man who has no ambitions — he’s happy being a dad and a husband and loves his drink. Cindy, on the other hand, is an ambitious woman who loves her daughter and goes from loving Dean to “feeling nothing” for him.
- Strong dialogues: How can you create real people? You can do so through real dialogues. Through silence in between. By interjecting action during exchanges. Every exchange between Cindy and Dean is a proof of that.
- Fresh story telling: Even though it’s an old premise: a crumbling marriage, the way the story is told is fresh and intimate. So you see, you may write a love story, but how you let it unfold on paper or screen is crucial. You can tell the same story from a different perspective.
- Sans drama: We’ve grown up on Bollywood. So we expect drama in almost everything we see. But to me the best moments are always, non dramatic. In a book or in a film. So quite naturally, I lean towards European cinema and films like Blue Valentine. And towards books not written by Chetan Bhagat.
“If you picked the right person and you both love each other, you will always find a way to get through it (marriage)”, writes Nicholas Sparks. In Blue Valentine, you learn that even after you have picked the right person and it seems like a happily ever after, down the years, something somewhere can snap and break the sacred tie.
Lastly, if you are a sucker for happy endings, then this film is not for you. But if you’re willing to explore the other side of marriage — or draw inspiration to write better, like I did — you must, must watch Blue Valentine. Because you see Valentines are not always pink.