The highly anticipated releases for the heavy hitters of this years festival circuit continues with Noah Baumbach’s painful examination of family and marriage in ‘Marriage Story’. Baumbach teams up with Netflix for a second time following his 2017 release ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’. A film which follows an estranged family attempting to reconnect. ‘Marriage Story’ however focuses on a family breaking up as those involved try to salvage what they can. Written and directed by Baumbach whose own experiences and those of the cast shine through to create a deeply personal examination of divorce.
Starring as the two leads and parents in the family, are Adam Driver as Charlie and Scarlett Johansson as Nicole. They play a director and actress who live in New York and run a small theatre company together, and after ten years of marriage have decided to amicably split up. However they soon realise that isn’t as easy as they had hoped. Both Johansson and Driver are spectacular in their respective roles and succeed in bringing to life the complexities of the situation on screen. Their characters are well crafted from the beginning of the film and have a relationship steeped in a long history that they sell with ease. Baumbach makes the most of having two of Hollywood’s best, working at the peak of their powers by funneling the film’s perspective entirely through their separate experiences. Azhy Robertson who plays Henry their eight year old son is excellent in functioning as a constant reminder of what’s at stake for both parents throughout the film. Also with a wider supporting cast of names such as Laura Dern, Merritt Wever and Ray Liotta, who make up the family and lawyers surrounding the separating parents. Each of their roles and performances are well crafted, all bringing a unique dynamic when on screen.
With ‘Marriage Story’ Baumbach shines at every level. The subtleties and nuances that do so much with so little, the quick cuts or the glances of the eye, to the grand long takes that reveal every aspect of these two characters. Baumbach uses locations of stark difference and a dense but exceptional script to hit home his message. Backed by a beautifully soft and bittersweet score from Randy Newman that is used sparingly but cuts through when called upon. However the film succeeds at its core as it portrays the complexities of people and relationships. It has wonderful comedic moments contrasting with moments of heartbreak, and moments of relief with moments of frustration. Through all of these, Charlie and Nicole are portrayed as totally equal and equally imperfect and this is why ‘Marriage Story’ challenges the audience long after the film is over.
Written by Conor Crooks
STAR RATING –★★★★★
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