The movie, packed with deep dialogues and emotionally intense scenes, has won the most number of nominations at this year's Golden Globes.

Marriage Story review Netflix film on divorce is heartbreaking realScreengrab
Flix Netflix Friday, December 13, 2019 - 13:40

The thing you must understand about Marriage Story is that it is not a ‘marriage story’. Rather, it is about how much it takes to break up a marriage - one delicate layer after another. Each assurance, promise and comfort softly slit and yet the bloodspill and nausea inevitable. 

Scarlett Johansson is one of the best actors of the era. Her versatility, adaptability and not to mention the charisma she brings on screen - even if it is with just her voice (Her, 2014), are undeniable in the movie. Adam Driver blends seamlessly into the role of the theatrical genius that he plays. With his shaggy hair and dark eyes, he brings verisimilitude to his character. Together, they weave a story of marriage - or rather, a story of taking the marriage apart precariously. 

Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver), since the onset of their relationship, had built their castles and accomplishments on each other, one’s strength overlapping the other’s weakness. 

“I get stuck in my ways and she knows when to push me and when to leave me alone.”

“He is incredibly neat and I rely on him to keep things in order.”

“Nicole gives great presents.”

“Charlie is undaunted.”

Theirs was a love story which began during a play, when a certain big shaggy bear uttered all his lines looking directly at a woman in the audience. A love story, in which Nichole fell in love two seconds after she saw Charlie. 

But no, it’s not a marriage story; it is a story about retrieving your love and affection one by one and leaving the other cold and lonely. It is one about deliberately leaving the cupboard doors open and not cleaning up after a messy someone. It is one about cruelly pulling the rug from under the other’s feet such that the castles tumble down in a heap of rubble around the person’s feet. It is knowing that what you are doing hurts and hurts, and you keep at it because you have no choice but to fight to keep what you love the most - your lovely son, for instance - whom you are worried, is already slipping away from your hands.

The movie is profoundly intimate, peeking shamelessly into the personal lives of a couple who cannot be - because of their differences and - ahem - cheating (with absolutely no raised eyebrows at Charlie). 

As their marriage reaches its end, it is obvious that Nicole had been the one worse off throughout, although the divorce and its aftermath leave Charlie hanging miserably with no family for himself (him being estranged from his parents and his son Henry (Azhy Robertson), 3000 miles away in LA).  Before, it seems that Nicole was at the world’s end, victimised, gaslighted, cheated on and neglected by her theatre-obsessed husband while through and after the divorce, it is Adam - for whom it takes forever to process what is going on and to revert with equal momentum. Did that come from Nicole putting her foot down firmly? So much so that it shook up Charlie to think that his loving, yielding and hair-cutting wife had suddenly become “Surprise! I have my own opinions!”? 

Laura Dern vibrantly plays Nora, the zealous attorney to Nicole. It is in her that Nicole deposits her grief and fury, and it is from her that she draws useful allegations against her husband for the court proceedings. 

The movie is packed with deep dialogues and emotionally intense scenes. Noah Baumbach, the writer/director is famous for his dramatic comedy movies - although Marriage Story is quintessentially more ‘drama’ than ‘comedy’. Rather than any other aspect of movie-making, it is the emotional upheaval that takes the forefront in the movie as though everything else - the camera and the music - is working towards accentuating it.

Marriage Story has won the highest number of nominations in the Golden Globes 2020 with six nominations, including Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Drama Motion Picture, Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Drama Motion Picture, Best Screenplay of a Motion Picture, Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Original Score. The movie has already bagged various other awards in different categories. 

As it is, theirs was a love story where Nicole fell in love two seconds after seeing Charlie. Theirs was a marriage story where one’s strength made up for the other’s weakness. And how did their divorce story pan out?

With an ending that’s just as delicate and profound as the rest of the film.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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