There are some films that while you watch, you just know that this was made for you. It might not be always objective and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but somehow it is exactly what you need it to be. There is just something about it that works, doesn’t matter what others will think, it is a film that seems to have been made just for you. It is one of the best feelings in the world because it feels like finding something you had been looking for.
Hannah Marks’ Mark, Mary & Some Other People is exactly that film for me. From the very first frame, I was captivated. The jokes landed, the humour had me in tears and as the story developed, I found myself rooting for these two idiots. There’s something so satisfying when you watch a film that just hits right and that you know you will revisit more than once. If it was possible to bottle that feeling, I would just do it in a heartbeat.
Mark (Ben Rosenfield) and Mary’s (Hayley Law) meet-cute happens at a neighbourhood drug store, where she is busy buying a pregnancy test, and he has to make an effort to remind her they met in college. After asking her out, he accompanies her as she takes the test, and upon it showing negative, she agrees to a date. One year later, they have fallen deeply, passionately, head over heels in love, and their whirlwind romance leads to marriage. So when Mary suddenly requests they open their relationship to “ethical non-monogamy”, Mark is taken by surprise but eventually agrees to try it.
Mark, Mary & Some Other People won’t be for everyone. Some will find it over the top, the editing is in your face after all. But that never bothered me, I like when a film uses its editing to tell a story, to create a feeling with it. Hannah Marks uses everything in her arsenal to be able to tell the story she wants. She doesn’t over-rely on editing, even if the film does use one too many montages. Marks uses her moments, she never overplays her hand. Instead, she navigates what she has crafted perfectly. She knows when to slow down the film, when to go faster, creating a pace that could have been all over the place and yet, never feels like we are missing out on moments.
The chemistry between Ben Rosenfield and Hayley Law is palpable. Even when they aren’t on screen together, you can feel they influence each other’s performances. It’s a relationship that could have been obnoxious and yet, it never falls in that category. Both are at the center of everything, they have to command the screen, doing it with such ease. If Rosenfield is great, the standout in this film is Law. Her performance slowly gets more and more layered, breaking down Mary’s walls that are there to protect herself. She brings a nuance to the character, letting us see more and more of the woman behind the wall. It’s something so small and yet brings everything together so perfectly.
Odessa A’zion and Sofia Bryant are the other two who stand out in this film. One scene, in particular, showcased how great of a talent they were. Towards the middle of the film, there is a scene where the group is at a diner and it delivers on every front. This scene is the perfect example of Hannah Marks’ brilliant dialogue. It’s quick-witted, smart and more importantly, it is the perfect example of the dynamics within the film. Bryant and A’zion don’t get a lot of screentime but they do the most with what they get and that scene is the perfect showcase of their talent.
In her second feature film behind the camera, Hannah Marks proves that she has everything to be one of the great working directors in the industry. She manages this story perfectly, navigating the pace expertly and crafting a film that showcases the best and worst of relationships. Sure, some could complain about how the subject of non-monogamy was portrayed but this film, to me at least, never seemed to be about that. It was more about two people who loved each other and yet, didn’t know how to be satisfied with that love in itself. Some might look at this film and think that it misses the mark, the ending not satisfying them and wishing for a different outcome. But, I am not one of those people.