‘Malcolm & Marie’ Director on if His Characters Are in a Toxic Relationship

The reviews for Malcolm & Marie are in and it’s fair to say that they are mixed. The Netflix film, which stars Zendaya and John David Washington, tells a story that we aren’t used to seeing on screen. While its two main characters confess their love for one another at various points in the film, it’s a more intense, volatile, and unhealthy form of love that has left many people feeling extremely uncomfortable.

Malcolm & Marie stars Zendaya and John David Washington on set of their film
Zendaya and John David Washington | Netflix

The film follows Malcolm and Marie, a long-term partnered couple who have returned home following the premiere of Malcolm’s new film. If Malcolm’s initial mood is to be believed, it’s obvious that the film has been well-received. But, as the pair wait for the reviews to pour in, it becomes clear that something between them is amiss. What unfolds is an explosive tennis match of a fight with each character volleying explosive and hurtful words and jabs to the other.

The reviews for ‘Malcolm & Marie’ are very mixed

At times, the film seems to go too far and many viewers watching the movie believe that it showcases an emotionally abusive relationship. Funnily enough, the characters themselves comment on said abuse. In fact, Sam Levinson, who wrote and directed Malcolm & Marie, gave several lines of dialogue to Zendaya’s Marie to directly address some of the abuse and Malcolm’s penchant for going too far.

Interestingly enough, some of the reviews for Malcolm & Marie question if Levinson himself went too far with his characters. In an interview with Interview Magazine, the Euphoria director made a case for writing complex characters and letting viewers interpret them the way they see fit.

Writer and director, Sam Levinson, weighs in on the movie

“But what’s weird about right now in terms of how we look at and view film and television and characters is that people go, ‘Is writing a character an endorsement of their actions?’ “Which is so strange because no, I’m not endorsing the characters who I think do things right and I’m not endorsing the characters who I think do things in a wrong way,” the Malcolm & Marie writer said in conversation with Zendaya. “They are who they are. They’re characters. Everyone else can decide what’s right or wrong for them.”


John David Washington Addresses the Age Gap Between Him and Zendaya in ‘Malcolm & Marie’

But it seems like those who have watched Malcolm & Marie have mixed feelings about what’s right for the couple. Are they toxic together meaning they’d be better off if they broke up or are they equally toxic thus proving that they belong together? Some reviews have even argued that the couple isn’t toxic at all, but rather that viewers have simply caught them in their worst possible moments. But what does Levinson make of his characters’ relationship?

Is the relationship show in ‘Malcolm & Marie’ toxic?

“And my hope is that people leave with whatever interpretation makes sense to their life,” Levinson shared. “Whatever they see in the relationship that they want to take away from it, they will. Is the relationship healthy or toxic? I have no idea. I go back and forth on it.” It’s clear that even Levinson isn’t exactly sure of what to make of the relationship explored in Malcolm & Marie. And while the reviews remain mixed on the film, at least it’s sparking some conversation.