Marriage Story [TIFF19 Review]

Noah Baumbach has created some amazing films, films that have cemented him as one of the great directors of his generation. I remember watching Frances Ha and thinking that this was his best film and that it would take a while for him to do better. Well, Marriage Story did that for me. It’s Baumbach at his best, his strongest. His steady hand is felt throughout and he never falters, navigating the film expertly and creating a devastating look at divorce and how it breaks everyone, even those with the best intention. Baumbach’s craft has never been this tight and it showcases how much he has grown as a filmmaker since his debut. Marriage Story is, in my opinion, his best work to date.

Reminiscent of Kramer vs Kramer, Marriage Story exploration of divorce and love is an angle we don’t usually see in a film. What I think makes the film stand out is the way the film is structured, the painful process of the divorce works perfectly with the structure of a film. The film never seems to lose itself in its story, taking us along perfectly and never diverging to tell a story that doesn’t fit. The jumps in time are done without much fanfare and just seems like the natural progression of life. Marriage Story’s interest in the effects of divorce through time works because the world it lives in feels real.

Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson are both brilliant in their role but the film really is Driver’s. His raw performance drives the film. He anchor’s the film with a performance that pierces your heart and will bring you to tears. One scene, in particular, had me wanting to get up and applaud because through one scene I was able to feel everything his character was feeling. He commands the screen like never before and continues to do stellar work. Johansson also is able to create moments that bring all the emotions out of you. She might not have the meaty scene like Driver does but more than once her performance is as raw and emotional as Driver. Together, they are able to create a balance and emotions that is impressive and works well

The most surprising part of Marriage Story is the amidst it’s a heavy subject, a lot of humour can be found. A lot of it brought by the always delightful Laura Dern. Its humour makes the film just a bit lighter and doesn’t bring everything down. It brings a balance to the film and is able to create a picture that is close to reality. Baumbach’s ability to create humour intense moments is impressive at times and while not every joke land perfectly, I was laughing out loud more than once.

Marriage Story does things without big fanfare and grounds itself in a reality that a lot of us know about. The difficulty of divorce and how, even with the best intentions, it can ruin families. With great directing, a great script and top-notch acting, it shines to create a film that is hard to forget after watching it.

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