One would suspect that all a romance needs to do to succeed is give you two characters who are likable, giving the audience a reason to care about them so that, in the end, the audience’s interest lies in seeing them come together and decide they were meant for each other, or something as gushy as all that. Most romances can’t even accomplish this, and, unfortunately, many of the ones that can aren’t capable of taking those characters and moving us from sympathy for them into empathy. This is what truly moves romance beyond good and into the realm of greatness, and this is what Blue Valentine has in anguished, blood-and-dirt-covered spades. Because of this, the two central characters and the problems they face ache with life-blood, and the movie is a powerful, effective and affecting, if profoundly intense to watch, experience. Continue reading
The day has finally come (or re-emerged after a long dormant absence, but more on that later). One of cinema’s most esoteric, obtuse sounding pairings has finally been realized. Drive, the new film from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, combines two very dissimilar cinematic worlds: the art film and the action film. It’s all kinetic action and flair, but particularly in the later half, it adopts a distinctly 70’s angular, stylized European moody crime film vibe more interested in abstract bodies in motion than bloodletting and tension. It’s about as strange a pairing as can be found in the modern cinematic landscape. Yet it’s wholly wonderful for the same reason, a peek into the past where genre fare did not imply smug grandiosity. And it could only have been made by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Driver (Ryan Gosling) drives. By day, when not working as a mechanic, he drives for films. But by night, he drives for anyone, no questions asked, as long as they pay. Naturally, this means he’s involved with criminals, but, just as he does with anything, he distances himself to keep from getting caught. He has no real friends to speak of, and he doesn’t have much of a way with words either. But one day he helps his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), and a bond develops between the two, matched only by an equally strong bond between Driver and Irene’s son Benicio. And, as is the case with any movie like this, their interaction changes (at least one of) their lives forever. Continue reading