When a married couple who have been together for 10 years with one child decide they need to split up, they try to remain a family in this hyper realistic story of the effects of divorce.
The story concept is very formulaic and paint by numbers, parents are getting a divorce, fighting over custody, further breakdown of communication, resolution. However, ironically, it isn’t the story that makes ‘Marriage Story’ stand out, it is the approach to the story. Typically in a film like this, the audience is made to choose a side and the film plays up to that by showing the relationship in black and white, X is bad because of Y, whereas Z is good because of Q. With ‘Marriage Story’ though, there are no black and white intentions, there is no narrative bias. Both parties are shown to have flaws in their personalities and behaviours but even then, the film doesn’t shine a light on these characteristics as possible flaws, it maintains a very real feel of people and their flaws.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are absolutely phenomenal, they both give absolute powerhouse performances throughout the film. Utterly convincing, and heartbreakingly realistic. The chemistry they have with each other is palpable, the way that they are able to bounce off of one another not only in the happy, upbeat scenes but also in the bitter, twisted arguments, it’s pitch perfect acting at its absolute peak. The rest of the supporting cast are also equally as fantastic but the script obviously favours the two leads and Driver and Johansson completely deliver every line with perfect conviction and a seemingly endless stream of emotion. The delivery of lines, especially in the opening monologues were so full of raw emotion and power that it set the tone for the film brilliantly and when it was later brought up again, this time with the audience having knowledge of what had just happened, it’s an explosive gut punch that rocks.
The film is shot in a very realistic feeling way, no grand swooping shots, simple but effective character shots, because that is what this film is; a study of characters. By keeping the shots and editing basic and simple it allowed the acting to unfold on screen wonderfully with no distractions or flashy effects. Simple, effective, perfect.
The pacing of the film was deliberately slow, allowing time to show the effects of divorce on what was once two people in a loving relationship. However there were a few time jumps that were not explicitly stated and it was jarring at first and took a little while to settle back into the rhythm and allow the audience to realise what point in the divorce is being shown at that time.
The performances were fantastic, and the stance the script took on divorce, that neither person is in the wrong was interesting and refreshing but the rest of the film felt bland and uninspired. However ‘Marriage Story’ is worth seeing alone purely for the phenomenal performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson.