‘Marriage Story’ is an emotional masterpiece

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“Marriage Story,” directed and written by Noah Baumbach, may be one of the year’s best films. It follows the story of a married couple going through a divorce and figuring out their lives in the process. 

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson have amazing chemistry as a separating couple. Driver plays a stage director named Charlie Barber who is more focused on his career in New York City than on his family. Johannson plays Nicole Barber, an actress who goes to Los Angeles to fulfill her acting career while looking after her son Henry. 

Every argument that takes place is an emotional spectacle. In one scene, Driver and Johannson go from calmly discussing details about the divorce to yelling insults at each other. What is amazing about the interactions is there seems to be some semblance of love between the couple. They don’t fully hate each other, but they can’t live with each other. 

Baumbach wrote the best script of the year. He is able to display the strifes of divorce and its effects on a family while also adding in some humor. The script seems to be a cathartic release for Baumbach since he went through a divorce of his own with Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2013.  

What could have been a revenge piece against his ex-wife, Baumbach decides to show the details of divorce without being biased toward one parent.    

The emotional rollercoaster Baumbach takes viewers on is a rewarding and tear-jerking experience. Accompanying the splendid script is a touching score from Randy Newman. It never gets in the way of Baumbach’s direction and helps complement a well-crafted film. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is gorgeous and captures the minute details most cinematographers seem to leave out when making a film about real life.  

There is a beauty to how divorce is portrayed in “Marriage Story.” Everything from child visitation times to divorce lawyers brawling in court captures the complicated nature of divorce. As nasty as some scenes are, there is something uplifting about seeing the Barbers’ attempt to be civil. It’s rare to see couples stay civil during a divorce, especially when a child is involved. But with Baumbach’s direction, he is able to take the frustrations of the Barbers and transform it into loving parents trying to do what’s best for their child. 

“Marriage Story” is a phenomenal experience. The range of emotions captured on screen is a spectacle that rivals reality. Similar to films like “Manchester by the Sea” and “Roma,” the emotional dilemma driving the plot helps redefine what family means. Driver and Johannson give career-defining performances and Baumbach’s direction is some of the best work seen this decade. 

The value of “Marriage Story” will only increase over time. It is a film that speaks to many even if it’s about a few people. Addressing divorce in an honest and sincere manner is a task most seasoned writers and directors seem to struggle with. And yet, Baumbach does it seamlessly.  

Rating: 5/5 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @marriagestory Instagram.


Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at ian.ward@uconn.edu

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