(Image: impawards.com)

(Image: impawards.com)

As busy I get from time to time, I find that I can’t see every movie under the sun, leaving my friends and colleagues to fill in the blanks for me.  As poetically as I think I wax about movies on this website as a wannabe critic, there are other experts out there.  Sometimes, it inspires me to see the movie too and get back to being my circle’s go-to movie guy.  Sometimes, they save me $9 and you 800+ words of blathering.  In a new review series, I’m opening my site to friend submissions for guest movie reviews.

TODAY’S CRITIC: Lafronda Stumn


Lafronda Stumn is a student at Madisonville Community College and intends to graduate with an Associate’s degree in Associate of the Arts. She plans on earning a Bachelors’s Degree in Motion Picture Studies and English at Wright State University. Her favorite Directors are Scorsese, Speilberg, and Spike Lee, and her favorite actors are Al Pacino, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Halle Berry. Lafronda contacted this page looking for a place to get published and I enjoy giving people that very kind of opportunity. She recently reviewed Alfre Woodard’s powerhouse drama Clemency. She returns with a new review of the trouble romance Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Welcome back, Lafronda!

The Story

Blue Valentine is about a doomed love affair between two people who are oil and water. They are two very different people in terms of personalities and career choices, and you wonder what brought them together in the first place? They have a daughter together but will the love for their only child be enough to keep this couple together?

The movie stars Michelle Williams as Cindy and Ryan Gosling as Dean. The film begins with Dean and their daughter Frankie waking up Cindy from her bed at breakfast. Cindy is not thrilled at being awoken by both of them. Cindy works as a nurse for a local doctor’s office. Her boss tells her that he moves to another city and asks if she wants to come with him. Her boss also asks her out on a date, which is an apparent conflict of interest, and Dean works odd jobs and is working as a painter. They also discover that their dog Meagan was hit by a car. Cindy tells Dean the awful news, and Dean promises to get a new dog for Frankie.

There are flashbacks throughout the film, including Cindy’s past boyfriend named Bobby, a wrestler at the high school they attend. Cindy is in a wheelchair despite the fact she does not have a disability. Bobby is taken aback by her reasons, which we’re using a wheelchair and they begin dating. Cindy doesn’t communicate with her family, who are the epitome of dysfunction. Cindy’s father is an alcoholic, and her mother is an enabler.

In the flashback, Dean works for a moving van company and moves furniture into a nursing home of an older man. Cindy visits her grandfather one day, and Dean asks Cindy’s grandmother about Cindy. Dean and Cindy later meet on the bus and start talking.

Dean, in the present time, tries to plan a romantic weekend away at a motel. Cindy doesn’t seem thrilled with him and tries to give subtle hints at the motel that she’s not into him. He keeps trying to seduce her, and the weekend doesn’t end on a somewhat positive note.

There’s also tension between them when Cindy tells Dean about meeting Bobby talking to him at a grocery store. Bobby wants to rekindle their relationship. Cindy handles Bobby and Telling Dean; this makes Dean very self-conscious. Bobby always intimated Dean because Bobby was Cindy’s, great love. Dean fears sparks would fly again between Cindy and Bobby.

The movie is about how Cindy deals with both Dean and Bobby and whether Cindy and Dean’s daughter’s love is enough to keep their love together.

There are several explicit scenes between Dean and Cindy that are anti-climatic. But that is understandable because Cindy questions whether or not she should continue to be married to a man who is thoughtful, romantic, understanding while at the same time has a drinking problem and has zero ambitions to set a good example for their daughter Frankie.

The lack of chemistry between Williams and Gosling works because you can see what attracted Cindy to Dean and how the relationship goes through many obstacles by Bobby and Dean’s fitness as a husband and father. 

The flashbacks give us an understandable context as to why Cindy, like Dean, for his empathy for her problems and humor work very well within the film.

The Breakdown

Williams and Gosling perform what makes this film great because Cindy and Dean are a couple in a way you root for because you see Cindy does want a father for her daughter while and the same time. Williams has a significant subtle and not so quiet range of emotions in complex roles, and she delivers and devastating raw performance. Gosling is likable and charming in his role in Cindy’s life. Whose heart is in the right place. But his lack of ambition makes him not the greatest catch husband. Gosling is likable enough for us to see as an audience; he does have qualities that would make him pleasant.

The director Derek Cianfrance and cameraman Andrij Parekh show sadness and disillusionment of a doomed relationship. The sorrow of the Williams character and the willfulness of Gosling’s brings an element of tragedy. The film does a brilliant job with the editing and the flashbacks by editors Jim Helton and Ron Patane. They do an excellent job of not confusing the audience with past vs. present storytelling. 

The Verdict

The film is a story about a couple who for better or for worse. Need each other, but the test of that neediness is what the movie’s heart is and how Cindy and Dean can or cannot be civil toward each other and be happy within a relationship on life support.

Grade: A


Thank you again, Lafronda! You are welcome anytime. Friends, if you see a movie that I don’t see and want to be featured on my website, hit up my website’s Facebook page and you can be my next GUEST CRITIC!