Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. She slaps him meanly and squeezes her eyes shut, as if trying to wring the disgust from her body. They're staying in the motel's "future room," a claustrophobic and outdated fantasy of a future not worth sharing.
It's a late attempt to save a love so long dead they can't bear even hate sex long enough to satisfy either of them. Gosling has said that the much-discussed scene felt real, and Blue Valentine's director, Derek Cianfrance, thinks its authenticity is why the MPAA stuck the movie with an NC rating in December later bumped down to R after protest.
We don't see more than a few agreeable glimpses of her nipples and Gosling's rear end, but what's going on in their faces is graphic enough. Cianfrance shot the scene in the cramped bathroom of a real love motel in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, using two long-lens cameras, one following each actor as closely as possible. The violence of the edits between their spaces shows how far apart they have fallen. The future once looked a lot bigger for this tired pair, we learn as the movie hops back to their heady first weeks together.
Dean Gosling is bearded and covered in tattoos, constantly smoking and hauling boxes for a moving company. Cindy Williams is quietly ambitious, studying to become a doctor and desperate to escape her unhappy, blue-collar upbringing. Dean charms Cindy with lines like, "In my experience, the prettier a girl is, the more nuts she is, which makes you insane. You're probably nutty coo-coo crazy!
Soon Cindy is smitten, and pregnant. They cry tears of joy at their courthouse wedding. The past scenes were shot entirely with a hand-held camera and often in just one take, Cianfrance said, to create space around the characters and allow them to come together to fill the frame.
Cianfrance had Gosling and Michelle live together in their rural Pennsylvania house with their onscreen daughter Faith Wladyka and watched as they struggled with the real stresses of having to share a bathroom and do the dishes three times a day.
He accelerated the relationship's corrosion by starting off-screen fights between his actors. One night he told Gosling to go into Williams' bedroom and try to make love to her. Gosling, soundly rejected, ended up sleeping on the couch. But I'd have them go to the family fun park after a day of fighting. They would have to go out to the real world and put a smile on. Cindy is unfeeling and impatient; Dean wants no more than the company of his family and a job that allows him to drink beer in the mornings.
Dean has made a mess of the breakfast table by licking up raisins from the oatmeal "like leopards" with their daughter. Cindy and Dean can't get through a meal without wounding each other, let alone bridge the divide between contentment his and purpose hers. It's hard to see how she ever expected him to meet her needs and all too easy to blame her for hating his significant shortcomings.
Frequent trips back to the wide-open past show a hipster dream sequence of a courtship that happened too quickly for them to map out space to grow.
Their love has gone missing, and Cianfrance leaves it up to the viewer to decide what happened to it. He empathizes with both characters and doesn't ignore the maddening reality that a relationship, like fruit or eyesight, can go can bad from nothing but the passage of time.