Review: MARRIAGE STORY (2019) – An Unflinching Look At Unconditional Love

Published by Shah Shahid on

I had put off watching Marriage Story for the longest time. Being married myself, I knew I would draw parallels from my own relationship into the story. Making the movie have that much more impact on me. And boy, was I right! 

Image via Netflix.

Marriage Story is a gut-wrenching look at the harsh realities of married life. It’s a sobering story about how love is sometimes not enough. And that the line between love and hate is so thin that it’s hard not find yourself on the wrong side.

Through the entire viewing of Marriage Story, I had a scowl on my face. This is because any reaction to so much of what happens during the movie is reliant on how it all ends. You can’t point to one thing as being a problem until you see what it causes and how it affects the characters. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the actual Marriage Story review here. 

Marriage Story is a gut-wrenching look at the harsh realities of married life.

Image via Netflix.

Marriage Story is all about two people in an incredibly love-filled marriage. The story begins with each character describing what they love about the other. It’s wonderful, it’s sweet, it’s funny and incredibly charming. That is until you find out that it’s an exercise as part of their marriage counseling. The relationship is in trouble. And this is where Marriage Story begins.

There’s not much to spoil, because the whole thing is about troubled relationships. It’s not about who’s wrong and who’s right. It’s not about who did what that ended the relationship. Sometimes both people can try and both are at fault, and both are the victim. In the case of Marriage Story, it’s about how each character’s life influenced the other, in good ways and bad. And that breaking point is what we as the audience experience in the movie. 

Scarlett Johansson stands out in a way never before in a captivating performance.

Image via Netflix.

Adam Driver deserved all the damn awards for his performance in Marriage Story. Driver’s Charlie starts off as a soft-spoken artist who focuses on the positive. His evolution into a person whose emotions blow up at having his life crumble around him is hard to watch. Driver sort-of exemplifies most men who are complacent in their romantic relationships. Ignorant to the problems around them and the unhappiness of their partners. Charlie thinks he’s happy, so he is unable to understand his wife’s unhappiness. It’s something that most men can understand and relate to, even if it’s done in an extremely hyperbolic way. 

I’ve never thought much about Scarlett Johansson as an actress. She is obviously capable and has given great performances in her career. But she’s just never really stood out to me. Marriage Story makes me see her in a completely different light. Along with her performance in Jojo Rabbit, I’m sort of on board the ScarJo train, albeit years late. Johansson’s Nicole could easily become the villain of the movie. She unapologetically says what’s on her mind without hesitation.  She behaves in a way that would turn off insecure men. But ultimately, she’s the one who is in pain. It’s her unhappiness that drives the narrative. And Johannson does so much with everything she’s given here.

Marriage Story works due to its incredible Performances and generous pacing.

Image via Netflix.

Nicole wants happiness on her own terms and wants a career of her own. The movie begins as she becomes aware of her own desires and ambitions. And how they have taken a backseat to a marriage that’s become too stagnant. Nicole wanting more for herself kickstarts the long-simmering problems in their marriage. It’s such a balancing act of being strong, while still retaining sympathy and being relatable. And Johansson does this perfectly. 

Marriage Story is a hard watch if you’re in, or have been in a serious relationship. As with any fictional story, we the audience try to see ourselves in the shoes of the characters, to relate to them. So Marriage Story hits even harder because it’s a subject that most people can relate to on some level. The story works that much more because of it. The emotions have that much more impact. It’s uncomfortable, it’s awkward and it’s real.

Marriage Story Trailer

At the same time, the story is a sweet and unflinching look at unconditional love. And I don’t mean this in a way that’s problematic or toxic. But the fact that you can love someone, despite all the problems being with them causes. The unhappiness. The conflict of wants. The long term goals that no longer align with one another. But the love persists. Maybe not in the same way it used to. And that’s very much what I took away from Marriage Story. 

Marriage Story is now streaming on Netflix. 

Were you as wrecked as I was during Marriage Story? Let me know below, or on Twitter @theshahshahid


Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad

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