Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
If you ever came up to me and asked me to recommend a truly remarkable movie to watch, I would have few movies to offer you. There are movies, of course, that I adore and can constantly re-watch without tiring of it, but the movies that really strike something deep within me, I seldom re-watch after the first view. There are few movies that I find myself hesitant to view again--not because it was too daunting, to gory, or even too happy. It's because it was so fantastic, I couldn't prepare myself to watch such a masterpiece once again. There are only three movies that come to mind that meet this criteria. Marriage Story is one of these movies.
Marriage Story is the paradox of "a marriage breaking up and a family staying together," as described by Netflix. Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are going through a divorce, because of their conflicting interests. Despite their initial desire for amiability, outside influences, lack of confrontation, and fear drive the soon-to-be exes to more aggressive approaches as they fight over custody of their son, Henry (Azhy Robertson).
Subtlety was the key to this movie's success. To start, Charlie and Nicole's ever-growing fear of losing time with their child as well as their resentment of one another leads them to trust the words of combative lawyers (Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda) which only causes more unresolved anger between the couple. Their lack of communication skill, causes Charlie and Nicole to make obviously detrimental choices as they find themselves lost in the turmoil of divorce. It's tragically beautiful to two well-intentioned people spiral out of control Romeo and Juliet style.
The sheer emotion and characterization portrayed by the actors was realistic and engaging. It made me feel everything and nothing at the same time. Charlie is a self-centered, persevering, and proud theatre director, something that perfectly conflicts with Nicole, who is attentive, passionate, and quick to feel defeated. At first, you can feel just the beginnings of their indignation. As the movie progresses, the boiling pot of their resentment blows into a screaming match filled with tears in both theirs and surely the viewer's eyes.
And yes, the beginning is a bit slow, but a necessary kind of slow. It helps build the tension between the main characters. And, in the end, it's worth it when you witness the final argument. It's so relatable to anyone who has ever had an argument like the one in Marriage Story. I could literally feel the pain in Charlie's lungs as he screamed and cried to Nicole and equally, the regret and relief Nicole feels when she exposes the problems she never discussed with Charlie about their marriage.
The lawyers, played by Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Aldra, and other talents, are perfect
examples of corrupting influences. While their intentions aren't corruptive--they're merely lawyers doing their jobs--they still influence Charlie and Nicole to cease their amiable intentions to move to more drastic measures, as they expose their Nicole and Charlie's faults in their marriage.
Perhaps the reason this movie is so raw and relatable is because several of the cast and crew went through or experienced the process of divorce themselves. Writer and director, Noah Baumbach and supporting actress, Laura Dern both had previously gone through divorces with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ben Harper, respectively. Unbeknownst to Baumbach, when he casted Johansson, she was going through her second divorce with Romain Dauriac. Adam Driver's parents went through a divorce when he was a teen.
As the movie faded to black, signaling its end, I sat in my bed, just thinking. I hadn't even noticed how dark the room was. Old tears stained my tired, red-rimmed eyes and my cheeks were warm. I thought over everything I had just watched. And I came to one conclusion: Marriage Story met the criteria.