Director Noah Baumbach captures the complexities of life and love
When I first saw the trailer for Marriage Story on my Netflix feed, I was certain that it was going to be a cheesy, sappy, love story. I was wrong. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Directed by Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story recounts a couple’s struggles as they go through a divorce.
Watching the film feels all too familiar. It begins with two monologues, performed by a married couple, Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) respectively. Each monologue depicts the heartwarming personalities of either individual, as they read aloud what they love about each other. Snippets of their romanticized, wholesome marriage set the scene; a house full of books, creatives living in New York City, family board game nights. They live an ideal life. What could possibly go wrong?
Like all good things, the viewer observes Charlie and Nicole’s relationship inevitably come to an end. The couple begin the separation process amicably, but it ultimately does not end this way. As lawyers get involved, the divorce becomes unpleasant, aggressive and heart-wrenching.
The film touches upon the realities of relationships and divorce while raising numerous issues that impact families and individuals in relationships alike.
The characters are charming, the plot is interesting and relatable and yet, I remain troubled. As the plot develops, the viewer learns of Charlie’s affair. Although Charlie cheated, the viewer is not mad at him for it. Instead, we are left feeling infuriated at Nicole and her decision to go through the divorce with lawyers, and therein lies a bigger problem.
Marriage Story demonstrates the realities faced by many mothers and parents. As mentioned by Nicole’s lawyer, Nora, mothers have a higher bar to meet. Charlie is a good father, a seemingly nice person with a charming personality, and thus, we neglect the fact that he cheated. Instead, we empathize with him, with the distance between him and his son, and at the thought that he may lose the money he uses to pay his staff at the theatre company.
The compliments and personalities of the characters from the opening scene linger in the back of the viewer’s mind, making it all the more difficult to grasp their divorce. It is safe to say that at this point, much like in our own lives, we are invested in their relationship and hoping they will rekindle their love.
In one heart-wrenching scene, Charlie and Nicole are moved to tears after a vile argument. Adam breaks down, sobbing, after wishing death and illness on his soon-to-be ex-wife. Guilt, regret, and sorrow are among the unpleasant emotions the viewer is left feeling after being privy to such an intimate and pivotal point in the couple’s relationship.
Anyone who has experienced the ramifications of divorce, be it firsthand or secondhand, will experience a melancholic familiarity in Marriage Story. Baumbach captures the complexities of life through the depiction of a compelling family dynamic, all while raising pertinent issues surrounding notions of parenthood.
Marriage Story is real and raw. The characters fight and sob, but do not makeup. There is no fairytale ending. The closing credits begin and, not unlike the characters, we are not left feeling closure, but rather the type of lingering sadness you get when you know something is over, and are left remembering how good it once was.
Film still from Marriage Story