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Marriage Story is Netflix's most devastating movie, and yet it's completely unmissable.

Netflix’s Marriage Story packs an emotional punch so strong that your soul will still be feeling a little battered and bruised days after the credits have rolled.

In stark contrast to what its title would suggest, Marriage Story is not about that first taste of wedded bliss but rather an intricate analysis of what really happens when it all falls apart.

Marriage Story stars Scarlett Johansson as Nicole, an actress who made a name for herself in a risqué teen film and then moved to New York City to pursue a more-serious career on the stage. While treading the boards in off-Broadway plays, she fell in love with a brilliant up-and-coming theatre director named Charlie, played by Adam Driver.

After several years of marriage, Nicole and Charlie have grown apart and their feelings of love have now turned to ones of grating annoyance and maddening despair that they no longer work as a couple.

Their divorce proceedings quickly become even more strained and complicated when Nicole returns to her hometown of Los Angeles to shoot a TV pilot while Charlie remains in New York to move his play to Broadway, forcing a complicated custody battle over their 8-year-old son, Henry (Azhy Robertson).

Take a look at the trailer for Netflix’s new must-watch new movie Marriage Story.

If you’re reading this description of Marriage Story and thinking that the dissolution of a marriage followed by an ugly custody battle sounds like the bleakest moviegoing experience you could ever be forced to endure, please know that before I sat down to watch this movie I was feeling exactly the same way.

And yet, while Marriage Story will not only pull at your heartstrings (in fact, it’s more likely to rip them from your chest and tie them in a knot) it also somehow manages to find both the humour and the heart in divorce, diving deep into how a family can ultimately put itself back together in a different kind of way.

Much of the brilliance of Marriage Story comes from the performances and chemistry of its two leads.

Scarlett Johansson is riveting as Nicole, a woman who let herself become submerged beneath her husband’s dreams and ambitions and is only just now kicking her way to the surface.

In another type of film, Nicole’s character could easily slide into a more villainous role, as she is the one to move their son away and initiate divorce proceedings with lawyers (played by Laura Dern and Alan Alda) involved. And yet, she is performed with such depth by Johansson, that her pain and resolution in every step of the film make her choices completely understandable.

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Johansson has spoken publicly about how her own two divorces, and subsequent custody proceedings over her daughter, Rose, fuelled her Marriage Story performance – a role she has described as “relentless”.

The payoff is that it’s her strongest and most captivating on-screen performance yet.

Listen to hosts Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece talk about the true story behind Marriage Story on Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill. 

Adam Driver’s Charlie is equally as beguiling on screen, as a man who can’t quite find his footing in a world where his professional life is beginning to fly while his personal life is crumbling.

In the character of Charlie, we also see the repercussions of divorce that are rarely examined in pop-culture, such as the loss of not only the family you create but the one you inherit.

With no close family of his own, Charlie has been fully ensconced in Nicole’s slightly wacky show-biz one since they first fell in love, and it’s a tie that’s hard to sever.

Especially with Nicole’s mum, Sandra, and her sister, Cassie (played by Julie Hagerty and Merritt Wever respectively, who are both complete scene-stealers), still infatuated with him.

Together on screen, Johansson and Driver are electric, bringing an intense depth of emotion to all their scenes, from the quiet moment where Nicole offers to cut Charlie’s hair to throw-down fights where they finally let all their bruised emotions out and Nicole screams in a fit of rage, “I can’t believe I have to know you for the rest of my life!”

And if you’re thinking that Marriage Story hits a little too close to the mark when it comes to the joint awkwardness and catharsis that comes from divorce, that would be because the film’s writer and director Noah Baumbach has drawn from his own experiences. Using both his parent’s divorce and his own infamous divorce from actress and the mother of his son, Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the movie’s inspiration and story guide.

It’s due to all these grains of truth weaved throughout the story by the creative team that Marriage Story is perhaps Netflix’s most devastating film yet, with a concoction of emotional scenes that clang together like rusty church bells and yet still manage to ring completely true.

Marriage Story is streaming on Netflix from Friday, December 6. 


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