Marriage is only easy in the movies.
Writer-Director Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story hit Netflix this week and the film is undoubtedly worth all the hype that’s surrounded it since it’s debut at the Venice Film Festival in August. The film focuses on the separation and divorce of Nicole and Charlie Barber, played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. What starts off as a simple separation after ten years of marriage, slowly turns into a brutal custody battle over their son. The film also stars Laura Dern as Nicole’s lawyer Nora, with Ray Liotta and Alan Alda as lawyers that Charlie works with at different points in the story.
The film does a great job of balancing between the two parties, and never directly paints one or the other as a bad person. This is a film about two people dealing with one of the biggest struggles any person or couple could face. No one goes into marriage hoping for it to fail, you have a desire to spend the rest of your life with this person, and no matter how long it may or may not last, it hurts to see it fall apart. There are times where the film begins to lean one way or another, but it immediately bounces back. It’s the type of story that reminds us that we’re all human in these situations. We all make mistakes, we all do good and bad things, and sometime relationships just don’t work.
The greatest aspect of the film is how real it feels. There’s never a point where it feels over dramatic or dipping into melodrama. It easily could fall into that with less skilled actors or a weaker script and director. For something like this to work, you have to be firing on all cylinders from all three sides, and Marriage Story does exactly that. Johansson and Driver deliver their dialogue not as actors but as people living in this situation. They each have their own moments where you feel can feel the pain they’re feeling even if they’re trying to hide it. There are subtleties that make this work beyond the scenes of them getting angry with each other, and it’s in those moments that the film truly flourishes.
There are plenty of relationship dramas that are barely worth five minutes of your time. The ones that work help us feel something more. They help us remember that even when we’re dealing with a horrible part of life, where we come in direct conflict with someone else, it doesn’t mean the parties involved aren’t human. Charlie and Nicole are both trying to do their best, and what they believe is best for themselves and their son. They have different opinions, and we may feel different about those opinions based on our own personal biases. But everyone is allowed to have their own opinion on how they want to live their life and raise their children.
Our free will and ability to choose is what makes us human. Sometimes it hurts a lot when those we love don’t feel the same, but in the end, we have to be willing to look at each other as humans and not monsters. We have to be willing to say, just because I don’t want the same things as you doesn’t mean you’re wrong or I’m wrong. Each person has their own reasons for how they live their life based on their innate nature and their life experiences. Life would be a lot easier if we all wanted the same thing, but life isn’t easy, and neither is marriage.
Marriage Story is currently streaming on Netflix.