Marriage takes work, love, and commitment to sustain itself through the years. Sometimes the hard work doesn’t pay off, and the process of divorce is terrible, especially when children are involved. This is the basis of the movie Marriage Story. In the beginning of their relationship, movie actress Nicole (Scarlett Johannson) finds herself instantly drawn to theater director Charlie (Adam Driver). Over the years and now as a mother, she loses sight of the love she once felt. To build a strong marriage, it can be helpful to look at this hopelessly broken one. Check out three lessons to learn while watching it.
Marriage Story begins with two internal monologues written as letters from two different perspectives. The letters explain the qualities that each person cherishes about the other, but these thoughts were never shared. Over time, a rift has appeared that is deep and impossible to repair. Nicole refuses to share her letter in an act of self preservation. She knows that if she shares the thoughts of love she has had over the years, she may be too weak to follow through with her decision to divorce and move back home with her family to Los Angeles.
With a Woody Allen-inspired style of filmmaking, director Noah Baumbach relies on the couple’s theatrical acting to tell the story. Some cinematic shots in the film visually show the idea of a communication breakdown. One is a wide angle of the divorcing couple at the far edges of the frame in Charlie’s new apartment to show the separation between them. Another is the closing of the gate the Nicole’s home, which shows the wall that pulls their child to one side or the other.
Balance needs in a marriage
In her younger years, Nicole acted in a movie role that was not taken seriously. Fueled by self doubt, she is spurred forward into a marriage with a theater director. Receiving guaranteed acting roles in his theater company allows her to become a more versatile and experienced actress. There is balance at first, but in this process of helping him grow his theater company, she loses sight of herself. Her requests become negotiable, while his remain steadfast.
Find creative fulfillment
Nicole becomes dissatisfied in her role as an inspiration for Charlie. At first, she feels flattered when he uses her ideas in his playwriting. For years, she takes his acting notes and constantly pursues becoming better on the stage. She turns down the roles she desires in Los Angeles in favor of the stable life she built with Charlie and to avoid upsetting him. Now she realizes the toll it has taken on her.
Later, Nicole looks back at her marriage while speaking with her lawyer (Laura Dern), and she delivers a long monologue about finding herself. She realizes that she never felt satisfied with the life she had with Charlie. As her vision of independence becomes more clear to her, she understands her true desire to find creative fulfillment apart from him. She realizes that she must set aside time and space to pursue a goal that personally fulfills her.
As one of the latest movies that Netflix added to the Criterion Collection, Marriage Story has six Academy Awards nominations for best actor (Adam Driver), best actress (Scarlett Johansson), best picture (Noah Baumbach and David Heyman), best supporting actress (Laura Dern), best original music score (Randy Newman), and best original screenplay (Noah Baumbach).