Marriage Story, the movie: An essay about love.

I have to admit that I watched this movie from the marketing victim position, just because I heard so many good things about it and the reviews that I had previously read were vastly positive, almost overwhelmingly so. I would have not watched it otherwise, because I have a whole Mrs. Maisel new season to adore and, you know, it is December and things are hectic.

Also, I don´t really like (this is me politely saying that I actually dislike) the main actors. Truth be told, I did not really like them, after seeing this movie they are up many places in my personal top. I am writing about them and this piece of art now, although I am sure I bring nothing new to the thousands of great review and fancy nominations they got. But movies are made for people, in the end, so I felt the urge to write about how this movie made me feel and how it deeply touched my troubled soul 🙂

Back to the point, this movie runs on Netflix and also in some selected cinemas. There will be spoilers, sorry, it is impossible to talk about it without spoiling some information, it is that kind of a movie (you know I hate spoilers, but it is what it is).

First thing first, the trailer:

Now, it is called Marriage Story, but I think it a story about love and the end of a marriage. Not the end of love, but the end of the relationship as such. Two very different things. I just love the sequence from which the featured photo of this article was taken; here it is again:

And I love it not because I always wanted a sliding powerful door to keep me away from all the pain of the outside world, but because it stands for what this movie is about: two people in opposite points of a sliding door (i.e. life), but in great need to push that sliding door in a somehow similar direction because they love each other and they also love their son, who needs them both, safe and as emotionally sound as possible.

The story itself would not make for a highly acclaimed novel, but the way it is narrated and played makes for great success and it did not surprise me, because I guess everybody can relate to bits of that happiness or that pain or that love or that fear.

Charlie is a pretty well-known theater director, living and directing in New York. Nicole is his wife, former teen hit actress, now member of the theater company run by Charlie. They have a kid they love each other. But they also hate each other, as it happens.

The movie shows the process of their separation and the chaos of a divorce, together with Nicole´s move to Los Angeles in order to pursue a new project and find herself again. I shall not narrate the entire action, but this is the plot. There would not have been such a chaotic narrative if Nicole had not discovered that Charlie had cheated, I am sure of it. But the cheating is not the main disaster for this couple. If anything, it is just a symptom of the dimension of the disaster and they both see it just like that (although Nicole is understandably furious; the mistress was a colleague from the theater company and is portrayed to be quite despicable, so that adds insult to injury).

Finishing a bit the characters´ list, the lawyers are something else: Laura Dern as Nora, Nicole´s powerful and special lawyer, Ray Liotta, as Jay, the shark lawyer that Charlie needs after his first one, Bert, portrayed by Alan Alda was deemed too kind and cute, basically. They are outstanding and they are portraying the absurd odyssey of getting a divorce so accurately.

Also, Nicole´s family, with her Charlie-adoring mother and her awkwardly-serving divorce paper sister are incredibly relatable. The kid is excellent, also.

So, now that I have made myself clear: the actors were gooood, why did this movie touch me so much?

Well, first of all, the beginning is so touching per se. The couple´s therapist had the idea of them both writing letters to each other on what they love about the other one and then read them aloud. It was not a successful or nice experience for that therapist, but it was useful on the long run for the couple, I am sure of it. And the lesson is wise: you got together because you loved each other. You got lost on the way, but there was so much between you two, it has to be cherished, it is valuable, it will not go away just because you think you hate each other now. This would be a great starting point for any break-up, before things get really ugly.

What I love about Nicole. She’s a great dancer, infectious. She is a mother who plays, really plays. She gives great presents. She’s competitive. She knows when to push me, and when to leave me alone. It’s not easy for her to close a cabinet. She’s brave.

Charlie

What I love about Charlie. He loves being a dad. He loves all the things you’re supposed to hate, like waking up at night. It’s almost annoying how much he likes it. He cries easily in movies. He’s very competitive. He’s very clear about what he wants. He’s a great dresser. He never looks embarrassing, which is hard for a man. He takes all of my moods steadily. He doesn’t make me feel bad about them. He rarely gets defeated, which I feel like I always do. He never lets other people keep him from what he wants to do. He’s incredibly neat. He’s brilliant.

Nicole

Another brilliant moment was their huuuge fight. I thought, obviously before the yellling started, that it would be the moment when they got back together, because it started with a Let´s talk mood. But no, oh no, they ended up crying, Charlie told her to die, Nicole told him that he was selfish in so many ways, it was…not a good conversation, it was a bit of a verbal mutual evisceration. As within the whole movie, it is impossible (or at least it was for me) to take sides, because you can see their points, you can see they are hurting and they have no idea how to navigate all this. I was touched by the connection that they still shared, how she consoles him amidst all that pain, that is a lesson to be learnt. They are in a war, as Nora the lawyer puts it, but they are still on the same side. I feel the whole divorce thing escalated really quickly and one could tell that the ideas that the Shark Duo of lawyers suggested was many times too much for Nicole and Charlie.

Nicole´s monologue about her marriage and how she felt during all that time, like she did not really matter, like she was controlled by Charlie´s wishes and genius, how she did not really know who she was anymore almost pulled my heart out of my chest. Truly. This happens sometimes, so many times, no matter how much we try to avoid it: we can forget about ourselves and play a part in somebody else´s story. But we all have our story, we deserve to have our road, our dreams and our own failures even.

The end is powerful because Charlie finally gets to read the letter about him and how Nicole fell in love with him 2 seconds after seeing him. They are already in a place of apparent balance, the storm has passed and they seem to have figured things a little bit. Another lesson, as common and useless as it seems: this too shall pass.

The entire movie is a grueling ode against marriage, if you ask me. One cannot help but wonder why get married in the first place if you need to pass through this ordeal if it does not work out. The absurdity of the laws and procedures is through the roof, and although they had planned an easy way out of their marriage, it was just impossible in the end.

The soundtrack is also really beautiful, without one even realizing it, the music just touches the viewer´s skin, ears and soul and it gently mingles with the story. I found a Spotify list with all the music and the one from Mommy Phase is, for now, my adored one:

To wrap my ideas up, I guess this story touched so many because it is a story about everybody. I can be Charlie, I can be Nora, I was a kid, I am a sister etc. It could have been a tragedy, but it has comedy points and you are laughing while crying and that is always a good idea. I highly recommend you to see it with your own eyes and feel it through your own arteries. It is cheaper than therapy 🙂 (not to say I don´t recommend therapy, just underlining how I feel this is movie is a must.)

It’s not as simple as not being in love anymore.

Nicole

Photos: Found them around the Internet, no owner was mentioned beside Netflix. If they go against any laws or copyright, I am sorry and I´ll take them down once notified.

3 replies

    • I enjoyed reading your review! I did not think about Charlie as a toxic partner, but maybe he was. As I said, impossible for me to take sides, which is so great, because it is a different narrative than the one we are used to in real life even.

      Liked by 1 person

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