A preview of what a toxic relationship looks like
Malcolm & Marie is not a feel-good movie about love, you’ve been explicitly warned.
It took me three days to finish Sam Levinson’s latest Netflix “romantic” drama, which gives rise to “quarantine filmmaking.” It wasn’t my lack of interest or enthusiasm; it was the sheer will and (emotional) energy needed to finish the feature film. Deliberately set in black-and-white, it symbolizes the harrowing grief that encapsulates the almost-but-not-quite-there-yet end of a relationship. Written, produced and directed by the Euphoria creator, it is as masterful as it is exhausting.
The trailer alone, with the distinct sound of Alabama Shakes’ Gimme All Your Love, gives justice to the film. If you’re looking for a love story, skip the reel and stream To All The Boys: Always and Forever instead. Malcolm & Marie gives insight as to what a toxic relationship looks like. The emotional rollercoaster stars John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) as Malcolm Elliot and Zendaya (Dune), the Emmy-winning actress who will most likely bag another award for her stellar performance, as Marie Jones.
On the night of his movie premiere, the hotshot director and “retired” actress unearth painful revelations that propel them towards their collapse. For the most part, it’s truly reminiscent of Marriage Story, with the director-actress dynamic. Think of the intense, emotionally fueled scene between ex-husband and ex-wife—but make it an hour and 46 minutes long. In some parts, you actually forget to breathe.
There is a troubling amount of gaslighting moments from Malcolm, as Marie would call him, an “emotional fucking terrorist.” And I quote, “You know, Marie, you are genuinely unstable. You’re fucking delusional.” Their heated back-and-forth is attributed to his film (loosely) based on her life as a 20-year-old “drug-addicted girl trying to get her shit together,” which he doesn’t give her credit for.
There are brief moments of tenderness, of love-that-actually-feels-like-love. In one scene, Malcolm cries out, “You just need a reason to be needed, because if I don’t need you, then what the hell am I doing with you, Marie? You want control because you can’t imagine the reason I’m with you is because I love you.” But then, two people who make each other miserable at times are just that—two people who are very good at hurting each other, and not star-crossed lovers fated to have a filmesque love story.
You have been warned, Malcolm & Marie is not for the faint of heart. It’s highly triggering especially if you’re not in the right mental and emotional space. (It was so heavy that I had to watch videos of babies in between to actually have the strength to finish it.) I pray you never know this kind of emotional reckoning; it will break you.
Stream Malcolm & Marie only on Netflix.
Art Alexandra Lara