by writer/director Derek Cianfrance
As a child, I had two nightmares—nuclear war and my parents’ divorce. In both cases my world ended. When I was 20 years old, my parents split. It was a love tragedy—but unlike Romeo and Juliet, my parents did not have the good fortune to die at the peak of their romance (sometime in their tempestuous youth) and have their love preserved for eternity. They survived, got married, bought a house, had kids, got jobs, lost friends, deferred dreams, became one and slowly, with the passing of the seasons, their passion faded. Time, not death, betrayed the promise they made to each other in their youth—to be together forever. There were a million reasons for it, a million details hidden in decisions they made over the years that now held tragic, unforgivable, unforgettable consequences. But there were no concrete answers.
Perplexed, I looked to my older brother and my younger sister for answers and for support. And I had a catharsis. I saw my parents’ love manifested in us, their children. We were the living and breathing products of their love. We had to continue, to fall in love ourselves, to confront the mistakes made by those who came before us. Blue Valentine is not my parents’ story. It is the story of their children struggling to move on.
As an audience member then, in my early 20s, I started to feel the betrayal of the movies made within the Hollywood machine. Humanity, it seemed, had been stripped from nearly every detail, replaced by perfect skin and perfect teeth and perfect words coming out of perfect mouths in perfect sentences that summed everything up, ensuring that everyone experienced and felt and thought the same exact things by the time the credits rolled. Movies were made by Gods, in the image of God—monuments, carved in stone, for us all to stare at in awe. This blatantly dishonest brand of movie making betrays people’s expectations of their lives by presenting worlds and characters and situations that make the viewer’s life feel inferior by comparison. Movies began making me feel so lonely.
The characters in Blue Valentine are similarly betrayed. The passion and perfection that pervaded while they were falling in love has now faded as they find themselves falling out of love. The illusion broken, they live in a place called the present and struggle with commitments and promises that they made in the past. The beauty of their lives lies in the ugliness and mistakes as much as it lies in the beauty and the perfection.
Blue Valentine is the film I was born to make.