Blue Valentine: The Half-Life of Love & Trauma


The story of love in modernity is one of growth and decay. Derek Cianfrance captures this sentiment beautifully in Blue Valentine. Through a series of flashbacks interspersed with present day, we are given glimpses of how love persists between Dean, (played by Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) – two people who no longer understand each other, nor are they able to provide for each other’s emotional needs. How do you not stand by the person who stood by you? How do you turn away when you have made a vow stating, “for better or for worse,” in a society that views the dissolution of relationships as a personal failure?

From the film’s opening scene, we are confronted with rural isolation and domestic misery. Dean and Cindy’s young daughter, Frankie, calling out for her dog Megan who is no longer there, echoes Dean’s pleas for Cindy to love him again. When Dean tells Frankie that Megan is not dead, just off becoming a Hollywood star, it is clear how his belief in Cindy’s love keeps him from seeing the truth of its death. The lies we tell children about missing dogs are the same lies we tell ourselves when love has faded; the memory of love persists long after its deterioration. This is obvio