Film Review: Marriage Story

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star in Noah Baumbach’s Oscar-nominated feature. (Courtesy: Netflix)

Marriage Story pits the two ideas of falling in and out of love against each other. A stage director, Charlie, (Adam Driver) and his actor wife, Nicole, (Scarlett Johansen) endure a grinding divorce through the film that brings out the best and worst of them. They ping pong from coast to coast, while fighting for the custody of their child, Henry (Azhy Robertson). Henry acts as an audience surrogate, unable to comprehend or control what happens around him.

Nicole leads a life in the shadow of her husband Charlie, acting in his stage plays. Charlie directs the way she cries, poses, and even smiles on stage. That overwhelming sense of direction and control from him trickles into their home life, even when the curtains are drawn.

Nicole wants to start a new life in LA, but Charlie refuses to leave New York and the life he built brick by brick. He has a theatre family there, one he built for years. The audience sees that the more they try to make it work, the more they smother each other’s dreams.

The performances were brilliant. The more I saw of Scarlett Johansson (Nicole) and Adam Driver (Charlie), the more I felt conflicted with my own sense of right and wrong. Who is to blame for the marital issues? Is it the husband who worships his work to the extreme, or is it the wife who loves her work but wants more of a personal life, outside her family? Through the panache of Noah Baumbach (writer, director, producer) both sides of the coin are shown. The viewers are thrust in the middle, like a fox between two hares, unable to choose a side.

When Nicole eventually migrates to LA to restart her life, with the luxury of having her own choices, Charlie follows to bring her back. The struggle to reignite their faded love is poignant.

Marriage Story has its viewers reflect on the idea that you can spend most of your prime with one person, but the comforts and boundaries of love in a marriage can be shattered at any moment.

This film makes us wonder whether it is better to move on, or to fight for what once was.

In Nicole’s first monologue she says, “it took me two seconds to fall in love with him.” Just like that, this movie makes you fall in love with it, only to turn on you, and make you question your ideals on love and marriage.

For: Those who enjoyed Blue Valentine.