TIFF Review: The Raw Storytelling in ‘Marriage Story’ Will Make You Feel Torn

Writer and director, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story follows married couple Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) after they decided to separate. They struggle to figure out their new normal while co-parenting their son, Henry (Azhy Robertson.)

The movie is an interesting example of how people tend to reflect on their decisions after a relationship. What are they thankful for at the end of that experience? What do they end up regretting?

The writing of the story is the strongest aspect of the movie

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in 'Marriage Story'
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in ‘Marriage Story’ | Courtesy of TIFF

The writing of the story is the strongest aspect of the movie. That’s because we don’t get many flashbacks showing the couple’s past when they were happier. Instead Charlie and Nicole talk about their past with other people in monologues that paint the picture for us.

This is effective and makes the viewer feel like they’re the friend getting the details who can only hope they have a reliable narrator. This will make viewers want to choose sides. However, we get a sense that Charlie and Nicole might not be the best at retelling their story.

These scenes feel fitting for a play on stage, and things only get more theatrical when the story grows. Laura Dern plays Nicole’s lawyer, Nora Fanshaw. This character feels very similar to her character in Big Little Lies in that she’s smart, rich, and follows a brand of feminism that probably just benefits people like her.

The scenes with Dern interacting with other people will make you laugh

Her character is a formidable opponent to multiple lawyers. The scenes with Dern interacting with other people will make you laugh. However, there are other scenes that might make you love or hate her.

Charlie and Nicole’s lives take huge turns after their split. The story is then about people breaking down and rebuilding after such a big change.

Johansson and Driver do a great job performing the range of emotions that come with divorcing. There is one long scene between them that feels genuinely raw.

Driver’s performance in the movie is one of his bests so far

Driver’s performance in the movie is one of his bests so far. I personally watched the entire series of Girls and it’s easy to see how the role of the struggling Adam Sackler led to him to being the perfect Charlie.

The same thing can be said for Baumbach given he has explored strained family dynamics before in his movies. The Squid and the Whale showed a family of four dealing with divorce. There is a scene in Marriage Story that seems to give a nod to this movie.

Although the movie deals with a lot of negative emotions, there are positive emotions and funny scenes. Nicole’s boundary-crossing mother, Sandra (Julie Hagerty) is funny while being inappropriate. Her sister, Cassie (Merritt Wever) will also bring a smile to your face as she tries to navigate the awkwardness of this new situation.

The movie in the end isn’t just about divorce but love and power. It’s powerful thanks to great acting and the screenplay takes you on a full emotional journey with the characters.

Marriage Story will be released on Netflix on Dec. 6.