‘Marriage Story’ is a Love Story About Divorce

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Published December 4, 2019
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Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson unload years of emotional baggage in a tight run-time of 2 hours and 17 minutes. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

With simple yet different narratives, multi-layered characters, and of course Baumbach’s brutally honest dialogue, I was transcended into a vortex of emotions during “Marriage Story.”

The opening of this film had the strongest reaction from an audience that I have witnessed all year.

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Marriage Story was released in theaters this past November, but hits streaming platform Netflix on December 6th. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

The film begins with introductions of two separate monologues from separated marital partners describing what they loved about each other. After these two lovely monologues were delivered, the scene cuts to the two of them inside of a divorce counselors office.

This hard cut made the audience breathe deeply and sink into their seats. Luckily, the sobbing was only in my head and the film continued on to be one of the best-told stories about divorce in the 21st century.

Baumbach pairs up with lead actors Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson who play opposite of each other as husband and wife. Both performances were the strongest I have seen from either actor. At no point during the film does one character steal the show from the other.

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Scarlett Johansson delivers one of the most captivating performances of the year in “Marriage Story.” Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Both the husband and wife in the film present like real people and not as idealized human beings. This is attributed in both actors as they play characters that are really grounded, reflecting their real-life personal traits.

Instead of constantly flashing back to the brighter and more treasured moments of the relationship, Baumbach makes his characters talk about those times and show the pain it brings them. Although it is a love story that starts at the end, he makes them feel the separation when relishing memories of great times, similar to how the film opened.

Toward the end of the film, the audience appeared anxious and restless; just as Baumbach wanted them to feel. Baumbach even treats the audience like a child in the divorce, not giving away all the details to key events, but including the ones that are most impactful to the story.

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Azhy Robertson co-stars along Johansson and Driver as their son Henry. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Shot design in this film also gives the audience the feeling that they are a child watching their parents fight. A majority of the shot reverses in singles, rather than over the shoulder. Along with the camera being pointed slightly upward from a low angle. This shows how a filmmaker like Baumbach has grown since some of his earlier work.

One of the biggest critiques is that he relies too heavily on his scripts and doesn’t put enough of his creative effort toward the visuals of this film. While the film is not a great achievement in cinematography, “Marriage Story” is still designed around the story. The shots are not stylized, but they do serve a purpose to the film as a whole.

Baumbach is currently one of the greater minds in storytelling, and although his films are still heavily reliant on a script, it is still a great story being told. As the year comes to a close this film is definitely one of the better ones to see and is very accessible. You can watch it on Netflix on Dec. 6th.

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