Blue Valentine Blu-ray Review
Blue Valentine comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the movie’s original, unusual, theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen (so those black bars you see on the left and right of your screen are intentional). As aforementioned, the movie has been shot using two distinct video formats – one in HD, one in Super 16 – and these offer up very different impressions on video. Whilst the HD detail is generally more consistently good, there are motion blurring moments, brief hints of edge enhancement and even a little bit of softness, in what is a more clinical portrayal of the drama – representative of the ‘present’-set sequences in the film. The film-shot segments are all the flashbacks, and they have a much warmer presentation, with good depth and detail, and a suitably hefty swathe of filmic grain pervading this element. Overall both styles come with their disadvantages, but they perfectly suit the material, and come across well on the format, in spite of these niggles – in fact, you could argue, they only go towards enhancing the look that the filmmakers were going for, and, in that respect, this is a pretty damn good video presentation.
On the aural front we get the option of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, or just a 2.0 LPCM offering, and there’s no prizes for guessing which one is the better choice – even if the front-dominant material does not always warrant full surround coverage. It’s a dialogue-driven drama, as you would only expect, and the speech comes across clearly and coherently throughout – from the mumbling and whispered sniping to the full-on screaming matches, never distorting and generally dominating the frontal array, although it does offer up some directionality in terms of which side the character is speaking on. Effects are limited – car noises, school bustle and everyday life hubbub making up the majority of atmospheric input, so whilst there’s a little ambient observation, it’s never really all that noticeable or noteworthy. The score is populated by fantastic song tracks which totally suit the mood of the piece and go some way towards enhancing it, playing out again mostly across the fronts and centre channels, although we also get some rear coverage as well as a bit of LFE accompaniment. Overall a good, but far from exceptional – or standout – aural offering, perfectly in line with the material.
The movie comes to UK Region B Blu-ray complete with all of the extras available on the US release, as well as an excellent exclusive roundtable Q & A with the cast and crew. It’s a quality set of extras.
The Director Derek Cianfrance and Editor Jim Helton offers up a full-length audio commentary which is remarkably revealing and refreshing with its informal chat about the background to this production. Dominated by the Director – which is no bad thing at all – we get to hear about how he managed to make the movie seem so damn real, with revealing trivia about how he genuinely woke the cast members up at 5 am in the morning to film some of the scenes, about how he was forever searching for ways to make the shots real – and authentic – whether by casting real members of the public, rather than actors, in the roles; or by having Gosling actually get a job doing furniture moving for the day. It’s possibly one of the most interesting commentaries that I have ever come across, not just offering up some excellent background depth into the project, but also providing plenty of fascinating filmmaking tips for fresh young independent filmmakers. Well worth listening to.
Deleted Scenes offers up 20 minutes of extra footage, including some seemingly improvised dialogue scenes from Dean and his workmate set in the present time; and more of the couple back when they were having fun, in love. There’s nothing that desperately needed to be left in the movie – although the present-set conversations between Dean and his workmate are the best contenders – but it’s still nice that they included them here.
Home Movies presents 5 minutes of fake home videos shots by the cast for the purposes of the movie. They are pretty convincing as home videos of a young family, and are well worth checking out.
Behind the Scenes
Making Of runs at less than a quarter of an hour in length and is still quite a promotional effort, but has a fair amount of quality cast and crew contribution throughout which makes it more interesting than your usual EPK-style offering. Although many of the themes and insights are offered up in other extra features, fans won’t want to miss the chance to hear from the actors in person.
Q & A takes almost 40 minutes to give us some roundtable discussions between the Director, the leads, and a couple of the producers. The Director compares the film to Godfather Part II in terms of timelines, talks about what they were intending to do with this alternative type of relationship drama; the cast talk about the motivations of the characters – and how it was not a single event that they wanted to show as breaking them; we hear that the background preparation had been going on for a number of years (the director had been working on the project for 12 years, Gosling for 4, and Michelle Williams for 6 years), allowing the characters to sink in; they talk about the background work they did, as a family, to make the situation real – living together, shopping together etc. As much as the Commentary is more informative in terms of filmmaking background, this roundtable – with so many contributors – is a great addition, and one that is exclusive to the UK Region B release.
Trailers include a trailer for the main feature, as well as previews for Biutiful, I Saw the Devil and Rubber, all of which look very interesting, in very different ways.
Blue Valentine is the new benchmark for top quality dramas within the fledgling anti-romance sub-genre. Offering a refreshing antidote to all the saccharin sweet, ludicrously contrived fairytale romances that generally flood theatres, it shows relationships as they truly are – for better or for worse – and will likely strike a chord with many viewers as a result. It’s not a happy affair, but it is an honest one; a tough watch which will remain with you and may even make you ask important questions about your own relationships – past and present – as well as the direction your life is heading in, and whether or not that’s quite as planned. Powerful, poignant and highly thought-provoking, this independent director’s sophomore effort has rightly reigned supreme over festival circuits and garnered critical acclaim – it deserves all that and more. And with two tremendous tour de force performances from the leads, who simply become the characters – as shown in both their loved-up past and their broken present – this one comes highly recommended.
On Region B locked UK Blu-ray we appear to get the same solid video and audio that the US disc received, as well as all the great extras – but there is an additional 40 minute Q & A which is well worth checking out, and which is UK exclusive, should that help to clinch the deal for anybody interested who has Region B / Region Free capability. For those prepared to take a long hard look in the mirror, this film has got elements that everybody can relate to – whether past or present – as encapsulated by the tagline on the front cover: “for anybody who has ever been in love”. It’s not an easy watch at all, but it is an important one nonetheless.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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