What’s the Significance of “Blue Ruin’s” Title?

The last few years have seen a surprising spate of films with the word “blue” in the title. There was Blue Jasmine, Blue Caprice, Blue Valentine, and Blue Is the Warmest Color. Then there are the classics like Blue Velvet, The Blue Kite, and The Thin Blue Line. And of course, there’s Jeremy Saulnier’s revenge thriller Blue Ruin. Seriously, what’s up with all the blue movie titles?

Well, colors have an incredible effect on human behavior, and blue is no exception. In a Huffington Post article called “How Color Affects Our Mood”, Leslie Harrington of The Color Association of the United States explains blue is very calming. It’s “relaxing” and “tranquil.” However, in his 1810 book, Theory of Colors, German poet Johann Wolfgang van Goethe described blue as “gloomy” and “empty,” words we could use to describe Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) at the beginning of Blue Ruin.

When trying to pick a title for his second feature film, director Jeremy Saulnier was considering several possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the names were just too aggressive. He didn’t want his film to sound like your stereotypical action film. According to the director, he wanted the film to begin with “a quiet, cool tone.” He was searching for something with a melancholy feel, and Blue Ruin beautifully described the film’s slow and lonely opening…before the whole thing explodes into a blood red mess.

Of course, that doesn’t really explain how Saulnier came up with the title Blue Ruin in the first place. In the most literal sense, the name refers to Dwight’s beat-up Pontiac, the rusty old junker that serves as his makeshift home and his only physical connection to the past. But as it turns out, Saulnier didn’t actually coin the term “blue ruin.” While trying to think of the perfect title, the director started searching for another word that meant “debacle,” and as he scrolled through lists of possible synonyms, Saulnier spotted the perfect phrase.

As it turns out, “blue ruin” actually means “complete and utter ruin, desolation.” That’s Dwight’s entire life summed up in two words. When the film opens, we find our hero living as a hobo on the beach, scrounging for bottles and eating out of garbage cans. After the death of his parents, Dwight’s life went into freefall, and we find him trapped in a world of depression and, well, desolation. And when the bearded beach bum finally snaps back to reality, his vendetta spins wildly out of control. Debacles just keep piling on top of each other, and no matter how fast he runs or how much he shoots, Dwight can never leave his old blue ruin very far behind.