Marriage is difficult to discuss, and difficult to see portrayed realistically. Theatre audiences may feel regret and sadness in their own relationships while watching the strained relationship in Marriage Story.
Marriage Story portrays a view of life that is uncomfortably close to reality, but that is what makes it powerful.
Director Noah Baumbach’s film is about a divorce and the two characters’ perspectives on their relationship. Adam Driver plays a playwright, and Scarlett Johansson plays an actress. The beginning of the film portrays the warmth of many marriages: they write long letters for each other, titled “What I love about….” and recall the benefits of their marriage. They know the details of each other’s lives, and even their “quirks” seem perfect to them.
Because of the inequality in the relationship, they vent their anger at each other through insults and yelling. Their marriage also brings different feelings to each of them. As a result, the film presents that difference between the personal experience and feelings from the perspective of the two characters. Their distance gives them more reason to accuse and insult each other when they are going through their divorce.
The character Nicole, played by Johansson, finds a lawyer, Nora, to help her negotiate a divorce in LA. Nicole’s highest principle was to break up with Charlie peacefully and to aim for her son’s well-being. Nicole had been pleading with Charlie to return to her hometown, but the couple ultimately stayed in LA.
When Nicole is taking with Nora, Nora says: “the basis of our Judeo-Christian-whatever is Mary, mother of Jesus. And she is perfect. She is a virgin who gives birth, unwaveringly supports her child and holds his body when he’s gone.” This is an ideal of motherhood. Nora is suggesting that the mother is more important to a child than the father. As the two parents negotiate over who will raise their child and how, the stakes are high.
In fact, Nicole was constantly confused and depressed in their marriage. She is not good at expressing herself, so she always hold back her needs.
The character reminds us that in a relationship, no challenge should be faced by anyone alone.
Charlie, played by Driver, realizes that this is true when he receives the divorce letter from Nicole. He thinks that it is the sudden change of Nicole that causes the end of relationship between them. So the day Nicole asks him to talk, he us very angry, because he believes he has sacrificed a lot in this marriage. When they were married, he was 20 years old and had not done much, but he did not complain about their marriage. What Charlie could not understand most was that they had originally negotiated to go back to New York after the filming, divide the assets fairly, and not seek a lawyer. But Nicole found a lawyer and forced him to leave his job on the East Coast, and move to the West for their son. Since he did not have a happy family when he was child, he had always been very close with Nicole’s mother and sister, so he is fighting against losing these new relatives due to the divorce.
However, Charlie does not know that Nicole still loves him and wishes he cared more about her. Charlie is used to his wife cooperating with him all the time, he can not understand why this is not the case now. He does not understand that long-term relationships grow together with the changes of the two people. Charlie reminds us that if you want to walk to the end and stay together, do not forget to look ahead, and at each other.
Fortunately, in this case, the deterioration of their relationship has not affected their love and care for their child. On the other hand, they finally returned to their relationship, and they could still love each other as friends after dissolving their marriage. Nevertheless, having experienced true love, we see how two people can seem to hate each other, but still love each other at the same time. We see how the passion of love eventually goes flat during the course of normal life. We also see how difficult a break up can be. But the character still give each other, and their child, love.
This movie tells people that choosing divorce does not necessarily come from a lack of love, it is just that life is difficult and there are many things people need to face. Sometimes, love can not bear the weight of marriage. In a marriage, sometimes there is no distinction between right or wrong. It can take a lot of time and effort to rehabilitate a relationship and adjust the expectations that can alienate a partner.
Image Credit: Netflix