Six months ago, I left the longest relationship I've ever had (six years) and it all started with Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine.
One night, a year or so before the actual break-up, I thought it would be a good idea to watch Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine (2010) on Netflix. We both like Ryan Gosling -- as a human specimen and as an actor -- and we thought we'd enjoy it. As it went on, my ex started complaining that the movie was dragging on. She couldn't get into it and kept calling the movie weird, while I was thoroughly enjoying it. By the time the final scene came on (the scene posted above), she was asleep on the couch.
The way Cianfrance cross-cuts between the past and the present lets the viewer experience two different timelines simultaneously. As the past and present mirrored each other (in the past they were crying out of joy while the present they were crying about their separation), I started to feel like that was going to happen to my relationship. I thought about our beginning and eventual end the same way Cianfrance had laid it out on the screen in front me.
I met my ex outside of a Dunkin Donuts across the street from my house. They were with a friend of mine and needed a cigarette, "Reds, huh? You a tough guy or something?" my future ex asked me in a playful tone. I laughed and handed one over. We talked over black coffee and through wisps of smoke. As the night went on, we made plans to see each other again in two days. I remember feeling so nervous that I was late to pick them up. I chain-smoked two cigarettes as I pulled up to their house and honked the horn. When they walked through the door, I felt stunned. I couldn't believe this person -- I was so into them at the time -- was into me. I screamed a little bit in my head. We went to a Starbucks, sat in the parking lot, and drank ice coffees under the sun. This became our thing. We drank coffee, smoked, got drunk at night, and watched movies. And without any warning, it was decided. We were dating. And I was happy.
Things started feeling off after we hit the two year mark in our relationship. At times, it felt like we were going through the motions. We barely went out to eat, we didn't watch new movies, we stopped going out to see bands play, and we rarely touched each other (all of these things could probably be attributed to my own problems, though). Everyday, we'd go to work or class, come back home, then fake our way through conversations until it was time to go to bed. Later, she got annoyed at me because I move too much in my sleep, so I'd push myself up against the wall and out of the way. Eventually, I bought an air-mattress that we put in our bedroom so I wouldn't bother her anymore. This was pretty analogous to our relationship. We were in the same room but we weren't really together.
About six months ago I broke up with her in middle of the night. I watched a person -- a person I once loved -- fall apart in front of me. Last weekend, I tried to watch Blue Valentine again. I barely paid any attention. My mind was elsewhere. As I listened to the movie, I saw different visuals in my head. I saw our relationship being built. Like a castle or a fort or a giant skyscraper. I heard our laughter. I remembered all the nights we stayed out late. I recalled the first time we told each other that we loved one another. I saw our smiles but then I saw them turn into frowns. The castle/fort/skyscraper was being taken down. Bricks fell from the foundation until it crumbled. I relived the night we broke up. I felt all of the emotion she did. I felt everything I didn't feel when I was watching her plead and beg with me to change my mind. The way Cianfrance constructed the beginning and end of a relationship -- in this movie -- will never sit well with me. And that's what makes it a great film. My relationship ended with Blue Valentine. And I don't think I'll ever watch it again because of what it represents. I don't how my ex is doing or what my ex is doing now. But I hope they're doing well.