Two people fall in love, and have problems. This could be the plot of a hundred films, but Blue Valentine distills this archetype down to the simplest element. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play the fateful couple, and the narrative skips between the start of their relationship, and a possible conclusion. Although non-linear, this is not an abstract movie, and while the plot might wander, its core values are very simple.

This is a tale about a relationship over anything else, and lives or dies by the chemistry of the two main characters. Abusive father, decrepit grandmothers and jealous boyfriends are all left by the wayside to follow their love. Luckily Gosling and Willliams are brilliant, be they naive youngster or cynical twenty-somethings, and capture both the goofiness and tragedy of love. Their change over time is not only well realised by costume and make-up, but in movements and expressions, and perfectly demonstrates why the young Jeff Bridges effect in Tron: Legacy didn't work.

The direction isn't flamboyant, and allows the story to tell itself. There is the odd moment of grainy footage or shaky cam that breaks the flow, but there always feels a reason for it. The ostentatious end credits which are beautiful, and bring a satisfying conclusion that not only sum their relationship, but love itself.

What is great about the film is that it never resorts to a tired concept to advance the plot, especially at the ending. It manages to find an original angle on some well covered ground, and for what is ultimately a lot of chat, brings a lot of business to every scene. Blue Valentine is sad, but doesn't leave you feeling depressed. It just shows the painful and wonderful aspects of a relationship, and must be commended for its clarity, simplicity, and beauty.