Marriage Story ★★★★½

“I realized I never really came alive for myself. I was only feeding his aliveness.”

I don’t think anyone other than Noah Baumbach could’ve made this film. His humanist approach to this melodramatic subject is exhilarating as he implements humor and personality into every scene. For every scene that is emotionally gutting, there’s a scene oozing of love and humor. Unlike other films that deal with divorce there’s this really delicate and loving nature to it. Since divorce is a double-edged sword—it can be ugly and it can be tender—Baumbach has to successfully portray both sides to ensure the most accurate portrayal of divorce in film. And Marriage Story does just that. It explores the confines of marriage and how compromises must be made to keep a marriage in tact. Showing that amidst the degrading and chaotic nature of divorce, there’s still beauty to be found in these people. It’s not exploitative and doesn’t look to implement cheap sentimentality like so many “lovers growing apart” films; instead, Baumbach is looking to tell a deeply poignant story that navigates the intimate lives of a couple dealing with a myriad of emotions. This couple is brilliantly played by Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson who deliver some of the best work of their careers. To play these complex characters with ranging emotions in such a nuanced way is just a testament to the sheer talent of these actors. To show regret, love, loneliness, heartbreak, and anger all in the span of minutes is incredibly difficult, and to make these changes in emotion not seem jarring is even more difficult. As we follow these characters on their heart-wrenching journey we never know who to root for, who is the rational one, or who is the selfish one. They’re pushed to their extremes and the lines of rationale aren’t always clear. That’s all in service to make for an ending that’s incredibly impactful. Marriage is a complicated thing and divorce is even more complicated, but Noah has crafted a film that tackles divorce in a simple yet truly authentic way. And it broke my heart into pieces.

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