Viewing Marriage Story, the recent Oscar Best Picture nominee, is like being a voyeur into the slow and painful ordinariness of a marriage breakup. Nicole Barber, played by Scarlett Johannsen, and her husband, Charlie, played by Adam Driver, are a couple still in love. They share a passion for the stage and for their young son, Henry, played by Azhy Robertson. Their listing of each other’s positive attributes is long.
Nicole has given up much for this partnership and understands her losses. But Charlie fails to know himself well enough and own his part in Nicole’s growing unhappiness. The couple does not seem to see the hope and investment that their marriage still holds.
Once they have embarked on the track of separation, they are unable to stop it. As the breakup plays out, the audience is left feeling helpless.
The separation divides the family between New York and Los Angeles. Both parents are losing Henry even as they both try to protect him. When counseling fails, lawyers are more than ready to help build the cases for divorce and settlement. What ensues is confrontational, ugly, and sad. There is no turning back.
Marriage Story is long enough in running time to make the viewer wonder if it will ever end. It is familiar enough to know that this story is within all of our stories; that love needs to be nurtured, communication needs to be cultivated, and couples need to be seen by the other in all of one’s goodness and flaws.
The movie is a cautionary tale in a social and cultural context where loneliness in marriages is all too prevalent and the divides are often very deep by the time there is a realization of the brokenness. R-rated for sexual references and coarse language. (Netflix)