Photo courtesy of Netflix

‘Malcolm and Marie’: An Exploration of Relationship Dynamics

Malcolm and Marie is a black and white romantic drama directed by Sam Levinson, starring Zendaya and John David Washington. This film in itself is revolutionary because it was the first film to be written, produced, filmed and released during the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was allowed a total of 12 people on set at a time and was shot in a 14-day time span. The two stars were responsible for their own makeup and hair and only filmed within and closely outside of the house the movie takes place in.

This film spotlights Malcolm, a filmmaker, and Marie, the actress who is Malcolm’s girlfriend. The movie takes place after the release of Malcolm’s new movie depicting the heart-wrenching story of a 20-year-old drug addict and the misery that comes along with addiction. Marie was also a 20-year-old addict when her and Malcolm’s relationship started, and the fact that the main character of the movie, Imani, was stolen from Marie’s identity becomes a central conflict in this film.

The movie features shots within the house of the couple arguing and continues to follow them as they begin a cycle of emotional exploration through the pain, beauty, desperation, reliance and toxicity that is their relationship. Zendaya and Washington breathe pure authenticity and devotion into their characters. The interactions between the two bring out deep-seated emotions of pure hatred and unadulterated love. The simplicity of the black and white color and minimalistic setting allow the richness of each character to seep through the script and onto the screen.

However, the capability and mastery of these two actors becomes completely lost in the exhausting and redundant dialogue that the writers provide. The pure talent of the actors creates an atmosphere of a cinematic masterpiece but in reality, once one has seen the first 20 minutes of the film, they have seen it all. The couples become stuck for the entirety of the movie in a destructive cycle of disagreement and then infatuation. Each argument unfolds personal, emotionally-packed verbal weapons that belittle and minimize the other. These arguments are then swiftly shifted to displayments of their toxic love and sexual chemistry.

Besides these densely-packed personal stories of each character and the utter shock of their verbal exchanges, there is little to no other substance within the film. There is no real introduction, climax or resolution. This could be the appeal of the film to some—that the focus of the film was not about the plot but the characters themselves. But the manner in which this was done became quite boring and incited the feeling of wanting the film to be over. This film and its beautiful incorporations of wonderfully timed musical background and orchestral interjections leave the audience with just a taste of the density and history of such dynamic, emotional characters. Whether the lack of plot and dialogue is its downfall or success is entirely determined by each viewer, perhaps that’s the beauty hidden inside Malcom and Marie.



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