This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Blue Valentine (2010). What went wrong in the protagonists’ marriage? Who was wrong? Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the 2010 drama stars Michelle Williams as Cindy and Ryan Gosling as Dean.
Blue Valentine (2010) – Plot Summary
The story follows a non-linear narrative showing past and present moments between Cindy and Dean.
Cindy is a college student with strong aspirations of becoming a doctor one day. At the moment, she’s dating a fellow student named Bobby. As a result of unprotected intercourse, Cindy becomes pregnant. However, the young woman only realizes that after breaking up with Bobby. Meanwhile, Cindy is already seeing someone else: Dean. The news of Cindy’s pregnancy leaves Dean pretty heartbroken.
Initially, Cindy decides not to keep the baby. So, she schedules an abortion. On the procedure day, Cindy changes her mind and tells the doctor to stop. She rushes outside the clinic and Dean follows her. He finds out that Cindy did not go through with the abortion. Despite of knowing that the baby is not his, Dean decides to support Cindy and proposes to her. She is ecstatic and accepts to marry Dean.
Bobby tries to reach out to Cindy, but she brushes him off. Cindy’s attitude angers Bobby and out of rage, he decides to confront Dean. With two other people, Bobby heads to Dean’s workplace and assaults him for “stealing his girl”. After recovering from the violent attack, Dean goes to Cindy’s house to meet her parents. A few months later, Cindy and Dean make their marriage official.
Five years later, Cindy has become a nurse and Dean is painting houses for a living. One day, their family dog goes missing because Cindy left the house gate open. On the way to see her daughter’s recital, Cindy finds her dog lying dead on the other side of the road. During the recital, Cindy informs Dean that their dog is dead. A devastated Dean brings the animal back to their property and buries it in their backyard. In order to cope with their recent loss and other problems in their marriage, Dean suggests a small romantic getaway. Cindy is reluctant about the idea of going to a motel, but then, she caves in and goes along with it.
On their way to the motel, the couple stops to buy some drinks. At the liquor store, Cindy bumps into Bobby, her ex-boyfriend. She is feeling somehow flustered with his presence and entertains his chit chat. On her way back, Cindy tells Dean about her encounter with Bobby and tension arises in the car.
At the motel, Dean tries to get intimate with Cindy but she rejects his advances. During dinner, Cindy shares her desire for Dean to become something more than he is. The conversation gets Dean all riled up and the couple starts another heated argument. Shortly after, the couple makes up again. During an intimate moment, Dean asks Cindy to make another baby. The idea makes Cindy change her mood again. Unwilling to talk to Dean, Cindy locks herself in the bedroom. Meanwhile, she gets a call from her workplace. Before going to work, Cindy writes a little note for Dean and leaves the motel.
At the clinic, Dr. Feinberg (Cindy’s boss) approaches Cindy some for small talk. During their conversation, Cindy realizes that the doctor only offered her a better job position because of ulterior motives. Turns out, Dr. Feinberg is trying to get some “alone time” with her. This realization leaves Cindy shocked and upset. The woman genuinely believed she got the offer due to her qualifications.
Dean wakes up and sees Cindy’s note. Despite of being under the influence, Dean shows up at Cindy’s workplace. There is a lot of tension between the couple, which results into another heated argument. Dr. Feinberg intervenes and Dean punches the doctor real hard. His actions made Cindy lose her job on the spot. Infuriated, Cindy drives to her parents’ house and asks for a divorce. Dean pleads his wife to give him another chance. Then, he uses their daughter as a reason to stay married but Cindy refuses to live in loveless marriage and have their child witness that.
As a last attempt to save their marriage, Dean reminds Cindy of their vows. She apologizes and pulls away. A heartbroken Dean leaves the house. Frankie goes after him, but he redirects her to Cindy and continues walking.
Blue Valentine (2010) – Ending Explained
The film ends with Dean leaving Frankie and Cindy. However, is it a definitive or a temporary separation? The director doesn’t give the viewer clear hints about the ending, so I believe it’s up to the viewer to decide. A hopeless romantic, will probably believe that Cindy and Dean are somehow going to sort things out and get back together. Meanwhile, a more pragmatic viewer will point out that couples like Cindy and Dean should have never tied the knot.
So what went wrong? Why couldn’t Dean and Cindy make things work? Before talking about the end of their relationship it’s important to know how those two got together. At a first glance, Dean and Cindy had everything to succeed as a couple: they were young and attracted to each other. However, Frankie changed the game for both of them.
Blue Valentine kind of paints “present” Dean as a slob / loser, hinting that he’s the reason why the marriage fell apart. However, is that really true? What did Dean do to Cindy that it was so horrible and made her fall out of love? Let’s look at the facts: Dean married Cindy, knowing that she was pregnant with another man’s child. He’s been a doting father and husband during all these years. There are no signs of Dean being abusive to Cindy or Frankie. Dean himself said that he never intended to be in a marriage nor have kids, but the man did it anyway because he loved Cindy. Everything said before, makes Dean sound like a pretty wholesome guy. So what are his flaws?
According to Cindy, Dean lacks ambition and drinks too much. Dean paints houses for a living. It’s true that he doesn’t make a lot of money, but Dean has a honest job that enables him to provide for his family. In addition, why is lack of ambition a problem? When they were at the motel, it’s clear that Cindy is no longer in love with Dean. Here’s the thing, Dean has never been an ambitious person. At what point in the early stages of their dating life has Dean ever shown ambition? Never. He was a high school drop-out working at a moving company to make ends meet, and that’s how Dean met Cindy. From the very beginning, it’s clear that Dean is a very free-spirit person who doesn’t make a lot of long-term plans.
Now, let’s talk about Dean’s drinking problem. Yes, it’s true that the man drinks a lot, but is it enough to call him an alcoholic? Dean is not perfect but does he need to be in order for Cindy to love him? After all, Cindy has her own personal issues too. In addition, Cindy needs to start taking some responsibility for her actions too. First, let’s talk about Frankie. Whether Cindy should’ve had her daughter or not, it’s a personal matter. However, she could have avoided the pregnancy. Although, it’s her right to be mad at Bobby for climaxing inside of her, Cindy shouldn’t be having unprotected sex if she doesn’t want to get pregnant.
Here’s another relevant question: did Cindy ever love Dean? At the beginning of their relationship, it’s clear that the infatuation was mutual. However, who did Cindy love? The idea of Dean or the real Dean? The answer to that is very pertinent, because it’s going to explain why did their marriage fail.
Dean’s ambition problem (according to Cindy) is a clear sign that she was more in love with the idea of Dean than the real Dean. If Cindy really loved the real Dean, she would have realized that this man never had big plans for his life. At what point in their early days, did Dean ever say that he was going to do big things in life? Again, never. So, it seems like it was Cindy’s mistake to believe that Dean was going to become a better version of his current self. Regarding that matter, Dean was always honest, he never tried to portray himself as someone that he is not. Dean has always been consistent about what he wants: Cindy.
Some of Cindy’s co-workers try to hint that Dean is a manipulative person. But is he though? Cindy might want to put all the blame of her marriage’s problems on Dean, but that does not mean that her man is the source of all of their problems. Why doesn’t Cindy admit that she married a man-child? Dean is not a scheming person, he’s just a boy, trapped inside a grown man’s body. However, Dean always had this childish demeanour about him. During their early days, Cindy thought that it was cute. But now that she has grown out of love, she finds it annoying. So in the end, Dean hasn’t changed but Cindy did.
Cindy and Dean – Who Was Wrong?
So what’s the final verdict: who was wrong? Cindy or Dean? On the surface, it looks like Dean is the “villain” of the story. Let’s face it: the man looks like he has given up on life, he drinks excessively and has no plans of getting a better job. However, when one takes a closer look, Cindy is not as innocent as she looks.
Here’s the real truth: if Cindy really loved Dean, she should’ve said no to his proposal. At the time, Cindy wasn’t ready to make such a big decision. She was too vulnerable to make the right call. In addition, Cindy and Dean didn’t know each other well enough get into a long-term partnership. The marriage was more of an impulse decision from both sides.
During the early stages of their relationship, Dean was desperately in love with Cindy and she was too afraid to be a single mother and raise Frankie by herself. Now, let’s talk about financial stability. Although money is not everything, it matters. Since Cindy and Dean got together at a very young age, none them were financially stable at the time. Why is this relevant for the outcome of their story? If present Dean and Cindy were more well-off, Cindy wouldn’t probably complain about her husband’s “lack of ambition”. Living a rather modest life with Dean made Cindy realize that she wanted something “better”.
Although Dean and Cindy are not toxic people (individually), they are in a very toxic relationship. Every time, Cindy tries to have a conversation with Dean, they somehow end up in a huge fight. However, it’s not that they are purposely trying to be mean to their spouse, they just don’t know how to communicate with each other. Some might feel like it’s Dean’s fault for not working hard enough for the marriage, but that’s not really true. All those years that Dean was with Cindy, there were no signs of infidelity nor abuse. On paper, Dean has been a doting father and a doting husband. So, what did he do wrong? The only thing that Dean is guilty of is believing that his love for Cindy was enough to make their marriage work.
Dean never changed his feelings for Cindy, he felt attracted to her from the very first moment that they met and he’s still in love in with Cindy. However is that enough? Sadly, time proved that love is not enough to make a marriage work. Both Dean and Cindy have terrible role models when it comes to relationships. For instance, Dean comes from a broken home: his father just left the family. Meanwhile, Cindy’s father is very abusive towards her mother, who in turn, is a very passive person who doesn’t stand up for herself. This alone was enough to mess Cindy up, who was unable to commit into long-term relationships for many years (until she met Dean).
All that said, there were a lot of early signs pointing that this couple would struggle. However, they were young and didn’t know better. Cindy and Dean fell into the trap of believing that their love / attraction for each other would be enough to solve their problems. Living and sharing a life together broke that fantasy. Why did the marriage end? No special reason. Neither of them cheated nor did anything terrible to hurt the family. Cindy just realized that she wanted something else and Dean does not embody what she is looking for.
ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION
Many name Blue Valentine as one of the most heartbreaking films of all time about love. Some will even go further and say that the film completely destroys the idea of romantic love. What is my opinion? Not true.
Personally, I don’t think Blue Valentine is that tragic. Yes, it was sad to see Cindy and Dean’s marriage end, but the truth is: not many couples make it. In addition, even those who stay together might not be doing it for the right reasons. Just take look at Cindy’s parents. Does their marriage look like a loving partnership to you? Having said that, watching people break up or separate is not really that disheartening, but it’s more of wake up call that love is not enough to make things work.
Blue Valentine ends with Dean leaving Cindy and Frankie. However, there is a certain ambiguity that leads some viewers to believe that the two protagonists might give each other another shot. Personally, I hope they stay divorced. Why? As individuals, Cindy and Dean are seemingly normal people, but together, they are a hot mess.
What I liked about Blue Valentine is that it gives both characters (Cindy and Dean) a chance to explain their side of the story. The film stars with a very cheerful Dean trying to chase the girl of his dreams, then it ends, with a man desperate to get his wife back. If one didn’t watch the first half of Blue Valentine, many would believe that Cindy is sort of a victim in this whole story. However, she is not. Dean is not a loser who makes Cindy’s life miserable. She does not fancy her current life and that made her fall out of love for Dean. But, is that enough to label Dean as the bad guy in this story? No, it is not.
Blue Valentine is definitely an interesting film, because it sparks debate among its viewers. Some will side with Cindy, because they see themselves in her, while others will empathize more with Dean’s side. The biggest victim in this whole story is definitely Frankie, because she has no saying about of the outcome of her parents’ marriage. In addition, Frankie did not come to this world by choice, her mother made that call, and yet she still has to witness the pain of watching her family fall apart.
Lastly, the performances in Blue Valentine are stellar. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling do a tremendous job at portraying a couple struggling at their marriage. In addition, the pace of the film is really good. Despite of being a two hour film, Blue Valentine goes by really fast, which is usually a good indicator about a film’s watchability. Having said that, Blue Valentine is definitely a noteworthy watch.