Two strong movies at this year’s Cannes Film Festival zoomed in on the state of couplehood and singlehood. Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” featured the kind of marriage that the director himself described as “ideal”. Tom and Gerri are kind, intelligent, cultivated and supportive of each other. They garden and cook together while occasionally fretting over their son, Joe. Enter their single friends, Ken and Mary, both falling apart in ways that range from comic to poignant to pathetic. The stability of Tom and Gerri’s marriage seems only to be buttressed by their frazzled friends. At what point do you have to say “enough!” to your friend’s neuroses? Desperately confronting middle age, Mary hits on the much younger Joe and is rebuffed. When she is openly rude to Joe’s new girlfriend, Gerri finds she must distance herself from her friend.
In a stark contrast to Leigh’s contented old marrieds, “Blue Valentine” is a heartbreaking portrayal of a failed marriage. Played with soul-baring naturalism by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, Dean and Cindy are pained and bewildered by their wrecked marriage. Both are “good” people, kind to the elderly, attached to their daughter and their dog. And yet it all goes so horribly wrong. The film intercuts scenes of their courtship and marriage with their current agonies encouraging the viewer to try to pinpoint the fatal flaws that punctured their love. There are no easy answers; maybe there are no answers at all. Maybe they were simply unlucky to have found one another just as Mike Leigh’s couple had the immense good luck to meet their soul mate.Follow me!