In this movie we watch the sparkly beginnings of love disintegrate over time. Blue Valentine captures one of the saddest aspects of life. The camera shuttles back & forth between the lovely past & tragic present. It seems so authentic it’s painful to watch.

Michelle Williams asks her grandmother “How can you trust your feelings when they disappear?” This is the question at the center of the movie.

Her character has clearly lost respect for Ryan Gosling. This is at the core of every divorce….the journey to the loss of respect. She announces “I’m done with this.” Though she offers not one single specific.

It is not only her silence that is tragic; it is also her giant stash of resentments all aimed at him. This is the path too many women follow. Just as Ryan’s character is surprised by the intensity of her giving up, so are many men.

Men are often willing to do a 360 & embrace change when their back is against the wall & they finally get it. It’s usually too late and they pay a huge price for their obliviousness. It’s easy for me to embrace their willingness to change because the long tired history is not bogging me down. Unfortunately, their wives have often reached the point of no return.

Ryan’s character had alcohol problems, though their duration is never stated. What’s poignant is the scene where he begs her “I’ll do anything. Give me a chance.” It’s a lost opportunity because she doesn’t care. She doesn’t say “Go to Rehab & AA, get a sponsor & work the steps.”

I wish women would break through their angry silence sooner & I wish men would not find it so easy to remain clueless for so long.

The initial rush of early love has to evolve into an US. It’s the third entity that has to grow beyond the you & I. The lovers in Blue Valentine never evolve. They are lonely with each other. Their loneliness leaks off the screen into your own heart.

You help each other grow when you evolve. You call the hard questions. You are honest with each other & solve problems together as a team. I see a lot of couples that haven’t figured out how to be a team.

Her silent seething anger is all about her. His drinking is all about him. When she says I don’t want to go to a cheap sex motel he doesn’t hear her, because he is desperate to remind her they love each other.

The US requires an enormous amount of work. There has to be an enormous amount of talking to soften the differences that love’s first blush ignores. Self awareness, taking turns, honesty & sacrifice create an infrastructure to with stand the test of time.

Evolve through hard work to an US or be a part of the terrible loss that is divorce.

Joseph Campbell puts it this way: “One of the things I have realized – and people who have been married a long time realize – is that marriage is not a love affair. A love affair has to do with immediate personal satisfaction. But marriage is an ordeal; it means yielding, time and again. That’s why it’s a sacrament: you give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship. And when you’re giving, you’re not giving to the other person: you’re giving to the relationship. And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life building, a life fostering & enriching experience, NOT an impoverishment because you’re giving to someone else.”

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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