Netflix’s latest romantic drama, Malcolm and Marie, starring Zendaya and John David Washington, and directed by Sam Levinson, is a raw exploration of love.
Only this time around, the glory of love remains submerged under a multihued observation of the cracks that emerge in a relationship. Suffice to say, this black and white drama is not your usual love story.
Zendaya and Washington star as ‘celebrity couple’ Marie and Malcolm, who return to their home, with Malcolm (a filmmaker) high on the success of his debut film and Marie (a model) wallowing in the insecurities given flight by Malcolm’s ungrateful attitude.
Malcolm forgets to thank Marie for a film, that she believes, for the most part, is inspired by her life. This seemingly simple bone of contention leads to a fight that lasts the entire night. And this night becomes the movie’s story.
Much like how Marie’s anger is directed at more than just a single transgression by Malcolm, the film too touches on a series of topics, but in the guise of a single, long-drawn fight. And in this aspect, it’s truly Zendaya and Washington’s film.
The two, especially Zendaya, lend a gravitas to the film that leaves you hurt on their behalf, even as it pushes you to step into your own past – one where the love was strong but not a fairytale. It’s truly a testament to the actors’ talent that they achieve the rare feat of commanding complete attention on-screen and yet, letting you seep into your own memories.
With every gesture measured, every dialogue well-paced, Zendaya and Washington deliver a mesmerizing performance and their electric chemistry becomes a salient, powerful third element.
However, while the actors elevate the story, the screenplay lets it down – simply because, after a point, you get tired of drowning in the characters’ pain. And no matter how well-written those dialogues may be, it’s hard to let the dialogues alone take you through the characters’ history, especially because we’re accustomed to stories reaching a conclusion.
But Malcolm & Marie offers only a peek. Highly emotional and intense, but still, just a peek into a couple’s life.
Ultimately though, it’s a small flaw. And not just because Zendaya’s epic monologue during the climax leaves you enamored. But also because this monochormatic love story still took me through the fifty shades of love, accompanied by a stellar soundtrack.
From the beautiful, where they revel in each other’s talent and ambition, to the toxic, where they fling accusations and rip open old wounds to hurt anew, Malcolm & Marie reminded me of a modern-day Wuthering Heights.
And just as Emily Bronte, through Catherine, had remarked about Heathcliff that “whatever our souls may be made of, his and mine are the same”, Levinson seems to have remarked through Malcolm & Marie, that as flawed, almost toxic, as they may appear, they still come together like pieces of an old puzzle.
Disclaimer: The reviewer does not aim to romanticize abuse, or promote toxic behavior.
All images are screenshots from the film on Netflix.