Ever since Noah Baumbach’s most recent project, “Marriage Story,” debuted at the Venice Film Festival, critics have said it was the best film of 2019. When the film was released to audiences in theatres and on Netflix, much of the same reaction was expressed by viewers. The film has been praised for its emotional writing, unique cinematography, and powerful performances and is certainly on its way to many future awards wins.
The film tells the story of the family in a way that feels as if the audience is watching someone’s memories unfold, in small captures of intimacy. The writing carries the story, unfolding the plot naturally, and capturing the story from both sides without weighing too heavily on one. The moments when Charlie and Nicole come together create smooth transitions that help the plot keep moving. Scenes of conflict between Charlie and Nicole and scenes of Henry with his parents stuck out in the movie as some of the most well-written scenes of the year, as they truly capture the confusing feelings of divorce.
I realized, I never really come alive by myself. I was just feeding his aliveness.“Marriage Story,” 2019
The atmosphere of nostalgia in the movie would not be the same without the stunning cinematography. The use of close up still shots, in particular, help to create perfect punches of emotion that bring the audience to tears. The film also uses a certain grain over the movie that makes it feel intimate, almost like watching a home movie. The use of muted colors throughout the movie set the tone for a sad separation between the couple. Negative space is also used frequently in scenes to give the characters a sense of loneliness and desperation, emphasizing the separation between Charlie and Nicole.
The screenplay and cinematography are wonderful works on their own, however, the movie is ultimately carried by the passionate performances of the two leads. The dynamic between the two characters is a difficult one to convey, but both Driver and Johansson seamlessly create chemistry that feels as if they’ve been married for years. Scenes of conflict between the two provide layered moments of tension that are conveyed perfectly to the audience, realistic enough to remind viewers of their own experiences. Many secondary characters’ performances stick out as well, specifically that of Julie Hagerty as Nicole’s mother and Azhy Robertson as Henry, who brings comic relief but also deep emotion that perfectly supports the performances of the two leads.
“Marriage Story” is a film that is utterly unique, but that shines a light on an experience that many people go through in their lifetime with a tender, yet revealing perspective. It is certainly a contender for many awards in writing, acting, and cinematography, specifically on many critics radar for the upcoming Academy Awards in 2020. It is a movie that will have a lasting impact on many generations to come, and it will be remembered as being one of the most honest of 2019.
Grace Beilman // Opinion Editor
Check out the trailer for “Marriage Story” here: