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Marriage Story Is A Great Film

Marriage Story (Netflix)

Starring  Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver

Directed  by  Noah  Baumbach

Rating: *****(5 stars)

Nothing in a marriage  is  more  awful than its death. Watching two attractive  fairly young people tear apart and tear each other  apart   is not  a pleasant sight. Somehow, by some  miracle  of  cinematic magic,writer –director  Noah Baumbach makes  the ugly aftermath  of  a broken marriage look  infinitely tragic and  uncorrupted.This  remarkable  film remains  purehearted even  as  the couple gets down to being really lowdown and dirty to each other.

It is as  though Bamumach  dives into  the deepest  recesses  of the  couple’s mutual hurt and  emerges with truths that are  like paintings on  a bare  newly-painted  wall staring at  us, each with  a story of its own. Not unlike the paintings  of his 8-yearold son that Charlie(Adam Driver, exceptional ) puts up on the walls of his  new apartment  in Los Angles where he must seek a second home away from New York in order  to be near his son after his wife  moves to  LA.

Bewildered  by the  swerve  that his life and marriage have taken Charlie  blindly follows his lawyer’s instruction, only to discover that his wife Nicole’s lawyer(Laura Dern) is far smarter .

As Charlie stares at the impending and frightening prospect of being taken to the laundry  by  his wife and her clever lawyer , Adam surrenders  to his fate as  much as he can. Then when his patience  runs out he  cries, weeps. sobs.

I have seldom seen  an actor on screen break down  with such heartbreaking  honesty.When Adam Driver weeps, it becomes  a manifestation of more than immediate  grief. This man is hurt and wounded beyond the  ugly words that he  throws at his wife in the starkest most  brutal marital fight I’ve seen since  Richard Burton -Elizabeth Taylor  and Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore spewed venomous post-marital vows at each other in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and Aavishkar.

The intensity of  their shared tensions explode on the screen with a noiseless griefstricken  thud. Baumbach spares  us the  background music  for most of  the  film, as  vignettes  from a disintegrating marriage play out in front of  our misted eyes without adornment. I would like  to see one Hindi film that goes easy on the violins  and percussions and shows enough confidence in the actors to let them express the full  impact  of  their characters’ emotions.

We don’t have the guts to  let the silences speak out the truth of  the moment  in our cinema. Or maybe we just don’t have  actors  of the calibre of  Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson  who are so so sooooo  into their  characters that  we see only Charlie  and  Nicole on screen, split  into two halves trying to hold on to the dying vestiges  of their  stonecold marriage.

Then we their son(Azhy Robertson) trying to figure out with his  8-year old’s  mind  what his parents  are going through.And then we see the  lawyers, played by some  of  America’s finest actors Laura Dern, Alan Alda  and  Ray Liotta pitching the couple into a murky courtroom  battle where  not just dirty but even clean laundry is washed  in full public view.

All these are great  actors(though I wish Ms Dern wouldn’t ‘act’ all the time). They contribute tremendously  into creating  a  marital drama that every  couple  out there would identify with me. Not that  there are no funny moments in the storytelling.There  is a particularly hilarious sequence where Nicole’s  mother(Julie Hagerty)  and  sister(Merritt Wever)  must officially serve the divorce notice to Nicole’s husband whom they adore, and there  is an outstanding sequence where the marriage evaluator(Martha Kelley) visits Charlie and his son. I didn’t know whether  to laugh or cry at what happened during that weird visit.

But I do know  Marriage Story  is the saddest most heartbreaking film of  the year. It is also a warning. Divorce  is demeaning and  ugly.  To be  avoided as  much as  possible.Embrace  the film.

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