Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Written by Noah Baumbach
Length: 136 mins
A director known for his realistic dialogue and perceptive insights into true-to-life relationships, Noah Baumbach’s approach to a marriage that has led to divorce was also going to be interesting, but ‘Marriage Story’ is a truly brilliant work of cinema, and it is one which will stick with you for a long while after the credits close.
The performances within this film are incredible. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson portray their characters in the most immersive way, and their on-screen relationship can travel from hopeful to entirely hopeless within a matter of seconds, through the most minimalist of actions. The development of their characters is brilliantly enhanced by the films pacing also, with long periods of Charlie’s (Driver) experiences with the divorce being portrayed, only for then a similar length to show Nicole’s (Johansson) own ordeal. It is impossible to not attempt to choose a side within the divorce, but it is even more difficult to maintain that viewpoint throughout the entire narrative.
Furthermore, the supporting roles within ‘Marriage Story’ are not only excellently brought to screen, but also feel as if they are used for the exact amount of appropriate time. Laura Dern’s fast-talking and bold performance as Nicole’s divorce attorney may at first appear as slightly over-dramatic, but you soon come to associate the importance her character has on the relationship with the stress that Charlie and Nicole are put through – the perfect status as a supporting role. Similarly, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta perform as lawyers which Charlie consults on separate occasions, and whilst they do successfully serve a clear narrative purpose, they also are more symbolic in demonstrating the type of attitude that Charlie has towards Nicole, depending on the time in which he approaches them. Whilst Alda’s ‘Bert Spitz’ is relatively introverted and more comforting, Liotta’s ‘Jay’ is far more harsh and upfront with Charlie, and it’s interesting to watch Baumbach delicately place such characters within the narrative when appropriate.
Baumbach’s direction within ‘Marriage Story’ is both delicate and subtle, whilst also allowing for moments of sudden breaks within the diegesis. His ability to allow a scene to flow smoothly until one small moment – a cupboard door hitting a character or simply a word out of place – can change the entire direction of the scene, is exacted perfectly, and allows for a balance between immersion within the narrative and the audiences own personal interactions being applied to the story that is told.
Such change within scenes can definitely be credited in part to the film’s editing and score. With the music by Randy Newman, who is forever immortalised for his contributions to the world of ‘Toy Story,’ the film maintains a touching and personal story within the sound that is brilliantly applied to moments of the film which require it. As well as this, ‘Marriage Story’ was edited by Jennifer Lame, who has previously worked on films such as ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea,’ which both feature editing that excellently furthers the complexion of the narrative. Therefore it is no surprise that Lame’s ability to convey emotion with such talent is also applied to ‘Marriage Story’, and the result is a film which draws in the viewer and tells its story in the most complete way possible.
There isn’t a single moment within Baumbach’s latest release that feels unnecessary, and ‘Marriage Story’ tells such a human story that it’s hard not to continue thinking about it days after the film has finished. Go and watch it on Netflix, and if you have the opportunity to see it a cinema near you then even better, but either way, make sure you find some time to experience the most compelling film of this year.