tv

Should I Watch It? Scenes From a Marriage, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain's brutal new series.

There's a moment, about nine minutes into episode two of Scenes From a Marriage, which is like a punch to the gut.

You can see it coming. It's been right in front of you the whole time. But when it hits, you're still floored by the cruelty of it. It breaks your heart, and if you're hoping the rest of the series will help you put it back together, you're out of luck.

That despair doesn't ever leave.

Watch: The trailer for Scenes From a Marriage. Post continues below video.


Video via HBO.

There's been a lot of buzz around Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain's divorce miniseries Scenes From a Marriage.

It's a remake of the 1973 Golden Globe-winning Swedish series of the same name, updated for 2021 with a gender-swapped role reversal, iPhones and the confirmation of pronouns.

But the real intrigue came thanks to the red carpet chemistry between its stars at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. No amount of traditional marketing could have beaten the moment Isaac stroked and leaned into Chastain's arm, captured in slow-motion and uploaded to the internet for the entire world to swoon over.

ADVERTISEMENT

So, does it stack up to expectations? Below I unpack what Scenes From A Marriage is about and give my verdict on whether you should watch it: 

What is Scenes From a Marriage about?

In the opening scene of Scenes From a Marriage, academic and stay-at-home dad Jonathan (Isaac) and high-flying career woman Mira (Chastain) are interviewed by a graduate student for a paper on 'how evolving gender norms affect monogamous marriages'. They talk through their relationship, with Jonathan confirming its every bit as happy as it appears. Mira's fidgeting and stilted responses tell us otherwise.

Image: HBO.

Six months after the interview, Mira leaves, sparking a series of events that take place over five years, across the final three-and-three-quarter episodes.

Each episode is a moment in time subtlely communicated through mentions of their daughter, Ava, or developments at work. But each episode is also very similar in pattern: Jonathan and Mira go from awkwardly catching up, to begrudgingly talking through their feelings, to viciously fighting. They can't keep their hands off each other, and then one of them leaves again. 

The series is a deep, uncomfortable roller coaster ride, full of passion and angst and tears. They hate each other, but they also love each other.

Come for the...

Performances by Isaac and Chastain, because let's be honest, the curiosity to see whether their red carpet chemistry translates on screen is why we're all here.

Image: HBO.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stay for the...

Pain. 

Scenes From a Marriage is brutal. It's full of heart-wrenching, intimate scenes you don't feel like you should be watching but somehow, you still find yourself immersed and wanting to persevere.

What TV shows will it remind you of?

Marriage Story for the hashing out of a painful, confusing divorce, and Normal People for the two people who are drawn to each other despite everything, and the excruciating communication between the leads.

How long is it?

There are five episodes, ranging from 55 to 65 minutes in length. 

The first episode will stream on On Demand on Foxtel and on Binge on September 13, with a new episode dropping weekly.

So, should you watch it? 

Scenes From a Marriage will be divisive.

On one hand, it's prestige television likely to garner award nominations for the leads. Their care of the characters is the series' highlight.

The chemistry is really there, even when the characters are screaming at each other.

Director Hagai Levi had a stroke of genius when he decided to begin each episode with a behind-the-scenes look at the set, time-stamped by the crew wandering around fully masked as Chastain or Isaac prepare for 'action'. 

It feels like a dare. Levi is showing us the reality as a way of saying: 'I bet you'll forget about this'. And we do. Before long, you're fully emersed, believing every detail of Jonathan and Mira's complicated story.

Image: HBO.

ADVERTISEMENT

But there will no doubt be people who take issue with the slow pacing and long-drawn out scenes featuring little more than two characters hurting each other.

There's little enjoyment in sitting through it, although you also won't be able to switch it off and that's down to Isaac and Chastain.

Scenes From a Marriage is designed to break your heart, and it will succeed with that. 

It'll also leave you craving warmth, and you certainly won't find any here. The good news is that as a weekly drop, you can appreciate the heartbreak in short bursts.

Just make sure you have a light comedy ready to go afterwards.

Scenes From a Marriage is available to watch On Demand on Foxtel and on Binge from September 13.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

For more on this topic: 

Want a cheeky $50? Tell us what you think
MMSurvey