Divorce is ugly, but Noah Bombach handles it with care in his new movie, Marriage Story, which was released on Netflix last year. It took me a while to watch it, but I’m glad I did.
It is clear from the first line and shot of the movie that both characters care deeply about each other. They love each other. This includes the nuances that made their relationship work for so long. Both recite monologues about one another as Bombach’s camera provides proof of their touching compliments. This sweet moment becomes bitter once it’s shown that these words weren’t written for endearment but instead for a marriage counselor. This is the trick that Bombach pulls throughout the film.
This is Bombach’s 10th film and it’s not the first time he’s told the story about divorce, but it’s his best interpretation.
Few movies have the Academy (six nominations), critics, and audiences on the same page, but Marriage Story is that kind of film. I’ve watched it twice in one week and I loved it the first time but loved it more after the second time. It’s well written. It’s well-acted, and it’s well-directed.
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johanson both deserve their best actor and actress nominations. They handle heavy scenes with ease and are funny just a minute later. This isn’t easy to do, and it feels as if we are in the room with them as they argue. Bombach openly borrows from his personal experiences, and it makes the writing better.
In its essence, Marriage Story is not about a divorce, but instead it’s about love after a marriage is over. The two aren’t perfect, but they wanted it to be easy. They wanted to do everything in the name of their eight-year-old son. But life gets ahead of them along with their emotions. Once the lawyers are involved you can tell that it’s just two people without control, because they gave up the control because of their irrational behavior. They planned to make it easy, but divorce is never like that. Anyone who has dealt with it will agree.
Besides the emotions, the film also provides truthful insight into the financial burdens of divorce. The lawyers rob their clients and are only in it to win. They don’t care about the person, some do, but they are the losers in this dog eat dog world. It only ends in regret, and if the two people are good, then hopefully it ends with a decent relationship—for the sake of the kids involved.
Most people who have experienced divorce agree that this movie is realistic. As a kid who has two divorced parents—I agree. Despite, my dad not being a New York theater director and my mom not being an actress working on a TV pilot—it felt real.