Don’t ever get married. That’s the article.
I kid! For a film focused around divorce it’s ironic that I have found a new favorite movie about love. I will not be doing a usual review for Marriage Story, as once again I have found a film that I have ZERO complaints about. Instead I want to talk about the lessons I have taken away from it, and ones I hope others got too!
Difference Between Quality of a Partner and a Parent
I think one of the timeless mistakes people make in the heat of their dissolving love is mixing ones opinion of their partner, regarding how they were in the relationship, with who they were/are as a parent to their children. It takes many forms!
Picking a fight because they were thirty minutes late to pick them up, making negative comments about the other TO the child when the other isn’t around, disappearing with the kid(s) when the other wants to make a visit, and on it goes.
Nicole(Scarlett Johansson) is FURIOUS with this man for his infidelity and his selfishness within their relationship, but despite her issues with that partnership she NEVER projects those feelings of this man onto their son. Not once.
I was glad to see that she was a character who could separate the two things. He may have not lived up to her expectations or desires within the marriage, but she had the maturity and wisdom to recognize (as she wrote in her letter from the opening of the film) that he was a fantastic father.
Charlie (Adam Driver) is not perfect. Thank GOD this movie shows some real parenting moments. I’m looking at the car seat scene! Within the (reasonable) frustration of the looming divorce he tells his son to get in the F*** car. Despite that, and multiple other moments of frustration, he still tries to help his son read, is desperate to take him trick or treating (I was sobbing), hides his bloody arm while he’s nearly passing out the floor so not to scare him, and of course endures that entire legal battle just to stay in his life; as Charlie so perfectly expresses it, “he needs to know that I fought for him.” Yup. Sob. Sob. SOB.
I suppose in the pits of negative emotions, resentment, and exhaustion the Ego can win; the ending of a marriage turns into a bloody war set on destroying the other by hitting them where it hurts. I find, no offense women, that this is often done by keeping children hostage.
Nicole never does this in the film, and I’m glad she and Charlie served as wonderful examples of the understanding that though this person may have failed YOU they have not failed your child. I literally said “thank you” to Nicole on screen when Henry, their son, voices his desire to stay with his mother and not his father while in bed and she comes to Charlie’s help by telling him, “but daddy just got here.” She had her deep issues with him but she knows that this man loves and takes care of their son. She vouches for his time and I appreciate those moments in this film.
Though he was pretty bad at his job, Charlie’s first lawyer made an excellent point, “Eventually they will grow up and they will have opinions.” So let’s make sure we do the best we can!
I cannot stress enough, as a child of separated parents, how much it meant to see my parents still come together on my behalf to make a decision for or about me.
Marriage Isn’t a Contract, It’s a Kid
If there’s another big takeaway from this film is that a ring, a ceremony, a house, and a vacation are not a marriage. If anything, that s*** is laughable to me after watching this. I know, we are in a day and age where more and more people are choosing not to have children and something like this would offend because it diminishes the value of their partnership and promise.
Right, but the moment that you get over each other and want to move on, despite how ugly grabbing your material crap might be, you will ultimately go your separate ways and never see each other again.
A CHILD involved?! It doesn’t matter how much you hate the other or how dirty the other did you, they are going to be around FOREVER. The two of you LITERALLY came together and CREATED (insert sassy clap) LIFE (one more clap for color).
If you’re behaving like an adult you know that you must, MUST, come together to continue working as a team to parent this human. A child requires the most humbling of surrenders in the midst of dead love.
Marriage was built on this idea that it was meant to be until the day you died. Well whether you’re sleeping with each other or not, the presence of a child means quite literally UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART.
Ring? Piece of paper? Ha. Cute.
Love Doesn’t Die; it Evolves
Though many marriages end in complete and total hatred, I’m content the film showed a relationship that didn’t have a love that died, but rather just changed. Some might argue that they didn’t love each other anymore. Sure, perhaps in the romantic sense, but despite that, throughout the entire film, there was no doubting that the two still loved one another. When Charlie is overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to get for lunch Nicole knows what to do, When Nicole’s gate won’t close (even after an ugly divorce day) Charlie shows up to try and fix it, and at the very end (stop making me F**** cry, movie!) Nicole runs to help Charlie tie his shoe as he carries their sleeping son.
Perhaps the romantic intoxication can fade, but love can always survive. I believe it’s because in this case, and in many cases, they kept the principal thing needed to allow it to- respect.
These two people throughout the film stayed committed to respecting one another. Now, I know, they have that blow up in Charlie’s apartment. Truthfully, that venting session was needed. More on that later. Yet, RIGHT AFTER it’s over both of them immediately apologize to each other and embrace each other amicably.
YES! Fighting is not the enemy. Don’t trust a relationship that says it never fights. HELL NO. It is sometimes a necessary element and a catalyst to tell ones truth. Yet, find your way back to respect. Let go of the ego and say “I’m sorry.”
Hell, what greater testament to the fact of love evolving in this movie is there than Nicole’s mother, Sandra (Julie Hagerty ) saying that one of her biggest regrets was getting as angry as she did at finding her husband blowing another man. Laughed so hard.
I’m aware it’s something people don’t want to hear; romantic love is wonderful, but it isn’t everything. Time changes us, our relationships, our needs, and our wants. Perhaps as time ages us it becomes less about the sex, the ego, the aesthetic, and the expectations and more about the company, the friend, and the history you share.
Just a thought.
There is a Difference Between Compromise and Self-Betrayal
This one’s tough. I think an important thing the film touched on was the lack of awareness we sometimes have (especially in our youth like Charlie and Nicole) over what we’re willing to compromise over what would actually be a betrayal of self.
In both of their cases, they ultimately betrayed some non-negotiable things out of fear of loss.
I took very much to heart some of the things that Charlie expressed in his explosion. They made me aware of my own mistakes and fault with those I had love for in my own past. Specifically, “I was in my twenties; I wanted to fuck everyone but I didn’t! There was so much I could have done, but I didn’t want to lose you-but- I was in my twenties… and I didn’t want to lose that too; And I kinda did! And you wanted so much so fast!”
My soul apologizes to those I loved who I couldn’t meet at their pace. Youth IS once, and to value it and want to live it somewhat recklessly within healthy reason IS fair.
On the flip side Nicole betrayed herself in a way she was too young to notice! It’s a way I see many young women do; she forgot she was her own person and tossed herself aside entirely. “All the problems were there in the beginning…I didn’t come alive for myself I was just feeding his aliveness….He didn’t see me as something separate from himself.”
Ultimately, we do the reverse of what should be done; we go in with our bodies, our feelings, and our willingness to promise without having a clear and rooted idea of what our bottom lines are. So, like Nicole says, “all the problems are there at the beginning.” We just don’t pay them any mind.
I don’t believe we choose who we fall in love with. However, recognizing what we can and cannot compromise from the BEGINNING can help us pull out of a situation at a stage far less painful than one further down the road.
All this being said, despite these betrayals of self, these two characters did and remain loving one another until the end of the film and beyond. The difference is that their relationship heals not when the other gives what the other wants, but when each do what they truly desire for themselves.
There’s a REAL Risk Bringing the Government Into Your Relationship, Ya’ll!
***It’s hilarious how we HATE our friends opinions on our relationships yet we romanticize an institution that invites the risk of THE GOVERNMENT casting some votes on our romantic failings.***
If there is one final thing I take from this movie is that divorce, in the sense of two people choosing to separate, isn’t the hard part. It’s the legal business of divorce that is hard. For divorce clearly, at its core, isn’t about your feelings, it’s about STUFF.
Yes, the ring, the promise, the ceremony is all very romantic. Yet, the legality and the contract of it…My GOD.
Prenup, prenup, prenup, PRE MOTHA F***** NUP!
The film was excellent at showcasing the cost, the drama, the traps, and the bulls*** that goes along with trying to breakup when the State is the third party in your relationship. Great job by Laura Dern and Ray Liotta depicting truly savage attorneys out for blood and money.
If you haven’t seen this film PLEASE do. Do not avoid it because you don’t “want to get depressed.” There is nothing depressing about this film. May it shatter some fantasies of romantic partnership? Maybe. But as Sandra puts it “I’m sixty-four and have a dead gay husband and still manage to get up in the morning.”
You’ll be fine.
You can stream Marriage Story on Netflix NOW!