This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Kopo’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
To provide a disclosure, which may or may not affect the way I viewed this film, I am a child of divorced parents. Even more incredulously, I was of a similar age to the child present here when my parents split apart (a couple years older, but nonetheless). What was much more apparent from my story is that there was no love lost between my parents, who now despise one another. There was no happy ending for me, as the infighting and disputes over monetary settling (oh, so many) caused a rather tensile childhood that lasted nearly a decade.
So perhaps it is with that same sense of apathy that I engage in the pessimistic attitude that anything will work out between the two in Marriage Story. The downward-spiral progression that inevitably led to the pivotal "argument scene," which everyone points to as a moment of cinematic history, was well produced and effortlessly engaging. Scarlett Johansson is absolutely captivating, with Adam Driver not far behind. All the development towards the despicable intricacies of separation were second-nature to me, proving to be a deeply introspective and familiar process of pain and regret. That same build-up was the heart of this product, of which I think only simmered and settled afterwards.
I'm not opposed to the prospect of sweetness within a bitter situation. In a sense, it's nice to be reminded that, within the darkest of times, people can come to compromises and remain on positive, if not neutral terms. My issue with it here is how it seems to wrap up rather succinctly, without so much as a snarl or a bite. The last twenty to thirty minutes are rather hollow to me, and the ending, which aims for the emotional highs of a heart-wrenching topic, had little effect on me. In a way, I almost empathized most with the child, who aloofly internalized his feelings during the whole thing, paraded around as an object of desire for both parents when all he desired was harmony and oodles of playtime. I keep recalling to the quick shot of the child in Driver's arm while the latter holds back tears reading the letter from his ex-wife for the first time. Uncomfortable, but comforting; I was that child at one point (probably more; can't recall).
More than anything, this is a product boosted by the fantastic performances from the two main stars in Johansson and Driver. All else is more of a meticulously crafted foray into the fun of divorce, custody battles, and identifying what it means to be alive. All fascinating topics to explore, but I'm unsure if the writing really does it justice, or if the optimistic approach really goes far enough to make it as breathtaking as others make it out to be. The feminist lens was pretty interesting, and one I wasn't expecting going into it, which was appreciable. Though even that at times felt a tad too preachy (maybe a good thing?). Certain little subplots, including Driver's affair and his inclusion of the scummy lawyers, also fell through the cracks once their purpose was established. All these things may just be loose ends to some, though for me, they're cracks that allow me to peer through to the inefficiency this story has.
A technically great film—performances were nearly flawless, scenes progressed smoothly, motivations were never unclear. I just couldn't quite connect enough emotionally to have it whisk me away.