This week, I had the delight of watching Noah Baumbach’s latest film Marriage Story (set to release on November 6th in the USA) at the Vienna International Film Festival. The movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, left me satisfactorily heartbroken. As someone who’s never had first-hand experience of anything linked to divorce, the movie offered me a discernment on the topic I never had before. What added even more to the experience was knowing that Baumbach himself has gone through a divorce and faced it as a child and that Marriage Story was stimulated by his own life.
The film looks into the marital break-up between characters Nicole and Charlie, an actress and a theatre director, who have been married for ten years and have an eight-year-old son named Henry (played by Azhy Robertson) together. The two still have a deep affection for each other, a point that is made clear from the get-go as the movie opens with their respective monologues in which they list the reasons they love each other. And this is why Marriage Story is bittersweet: it shows that sometimes love simply isn’t enough to overcome circumstances and complicated relationship dynamics.
Throughout the movie, the audience is taken on a journey of personal development with both protagonists and delves into the commotions that divorces can cause — which sometimes even worsen the initial heartbreak. Nicole and Charlie find themselves having to balance their mindfulness of their personal emotions while facing the underlying problems their marriage had all along. Marriage Story doesn’t ask its audience to pick a side. Rather it shows how in these cases, everybody involved is neither objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad’: they’re just humans, trying to make the best of a distressing situation. Nicole and Charlie are pit against one another despite trying the best they can to keep things cordial. The movie, largely thanks to its effortlessly effective dialogues and immersive acting, shows a well-paced and adequate balance of both Nicole and Charlie’s viewpoints (although I will admit I did feel like there was still more bias in her favor) and unforcedly unveils their individual qualities and flaws. It doesn’t matter who you would realistically be better friends with in real life: you embark on a rollercoaster where you feel the heartbreak of having to let go of a shared past with the characters and want both of them to win.
But Marriage Story isn’t a depressing tear-jerker. It incorporates a good mix of sweet and funny to a great extent by virtue of, to name a few, wholesome scenes with Henry, Nicole’s mother’s eccentricity, and generally the amusing and sometimes caricatural depictions of secondary characters and their interactions. As previously implied, the film is human.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Featured Image: Netflix