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Film Review: Marriage Story

24 December 19 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

Miriam Blakemore-Hoy was pretty impressed by Noah Baumbach's Netflix-exclusive drama...

Director: Noah Baumbach

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Julia Greer

Running time: 137 mins

Every once in a while, a film comes along and completely knocks everything else out of the water. With such an innocuous title you might be forgiven for thinking that Marriage Story isn’t going to be a revelation wrapped in a Netflix casing, but there you would be wrong. Noah Baumbach, director of The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha, as well as the more recent Meyerowitz Stories, has produced something pretty special, a snapshot into the heart of what it means to be human.

Actress Nicole, and theatre director Charlie have been married for several years. They have a son, Henry, and a beautiful home in New York. They play board games together as a family, they work together, they share intimate personal lives with each other in an imperfectly perfect way. And yet, the marriage is breaking down. Resentment seethes from misunderstanding, distrust and unresolved arguments. The disintegration of their shared lives is pulling everything apart.   And as the tide of separation and divorce looms up against them, they come face to face with the emotions that are not only driving them apart but those that made them fall in love in the first place.

Sometimes it is only in losing the thing that you love, that you realise the value of what you had

Not only is this a stunning script, the acting is truly outstanding. Adam Driver is incredible, bringing a wealth of heartbreak, pain and emotion to the role. It is interesting to see that even with his career success with the new Star Wars Trilogy, Driver still chooses to take on parts that are unassuming – roles that are thought-provoking. It really seems like he still prefers to take on the jobs that he wants to, rather than those that pay the most. But whether it’s a big blockbuster, or a quiet family drama, Driver always brings an incredible integrity to any part, making it feel like much more than a film. 

Scarlett Johansson compliments Adam Driver’s performance perfectly as the opposing side to the story. One particularly hard scene to watch is the moment when her lawyers asks her to open up about her relationship and why she is going down the path that she is. It is heart-breaking to see the love that still pulls the two characters together, that makes them feel like a divorce is somehow a betrayal even though what they now have is irreparable. But it is the perfect way to show just how complicated relationships can be.

It’s not an easy film to watch and it is certainly very heavy with the weight of the story it contains, but there is definitely a beauty in the loss of something just as there is beauty in gaining something. Sometimes it is only in losing the thing that you love, that you realise the value of what you had. And possibly in exploring this, Baumbach has created a masterpiece.

Did you know? The cast contributed personal experiences to the script. Noah Baumbach, Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern have all been through divorces. Adam Driver is a child of divorced parents.

Marriage Story is available on Netflix now

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