Marriage Story is deeply poignant and emotional from beginning to end, and worth watching just for the performances alone.
Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) were once a seemingly perfect and happy married couple, but now their relationship has fallen apart and are filing for divorce. At first, they want to do it as civilly as possible, not even attempting to hire lawyers and trying to manage the arrangements on their own. When Nicole moves out to Los Angeles for a job, that all changes.
Their divorce has now gotten very complicated, putting Charlie in danger of losing custody of their son. Both of them now have lawyers that are adding an immense amount of stress and drama to the case, causing their already rocky relationship to completely fly off the handle. Nicole and Charlie deeply care about their son, so they know they must try and pull it together for his sake, but the proceedings don't make it easy.
Marriage Story is a fairly slow paced film, and because of this it may not be for everyone. Because this movie takes its time, it is really able to show how arduous and painstaking the process of divorce can be. It doesn't gloss over anything and instead decides to spend a lengthy amount of screen time on the perhaps not so fascinating and more seemingly realistic details. There are numerous scenes in Marriage Story that are very uncomfortable to watch, because you almost feel as if you shouldn't be witnessing such a personal moment. It's almost like you have invaded someone's privacy and are watching the worst experiences of their lives unfold before your eyes. Marriage Story paints such a heavily realistic picture, that you can't help but be completely pulled into the character's lives, hoping for some kind of respite to be found for their misery.
Adam Driver is very quickly becoming one of my more favorite actors and it is his performance that really stole the show for me in this film. Before seeing this, I had held the opinion that Joaquin Phoenix was going to be a shoo in for the Best Actor win at the Oscars for playing the Joker, but now I'm not so sure. Driver's character is vastly different from Phoenix's, but both have the ability to embody every facet of their characters' personalities, making them fully come to life. The role Driver plays is likely to be viewed as a more realistic character, but is definitely not any less challenging. I have often felt that playing "normal" has to be harder than playing a character who has gone mad. There's more wiggle room with insanity, but when portraying an everyday kind of character, you must stick within the guidelines of what is expected of the average human being, or risk the performance being viewed as over the top or underwhelming. Adam Driver is able to stay within those boundaries, but push them just enough to make his character Charlie be incredibly memorable, unique, and impactful.
Marriage Story is one of the most well rounded films I have seen this year. Its narrative goes back and forth between Nicole's and Charlie's points of view as they navigate through their messy divorce, but the separate character plot lines never appear to be muddied or confusing. The opening ten minutes tells you everything you need to know about these people and their lives, as well as gets the viewer wrapped up into the emotion that surrounds the two characters' stories. Marriage Story is one of those movies that almost makes you forget moments that had happened previously in its plot, because there's so much content included, but then its finale brings everything to a head, and you suddenly remember all the steps that lead the characters to where they are now. As the credits roll, you're just in awe of how well thought out the movie you just watched was.
I'm not sure how quickly I will go back to view Marriage Story again, because it is definitely at times not an easy film to watch, but I know I will be seeing it again sometime in the not so distant future. If not for the movie itself, but just to watch the brilliant performances within it once more.