Malcolm and Marie is a Film About Films and Criticism, but It’s Also a Film About Human Complexities

MALCOLM & MARIE (L-R): ZENDAYA as MARIE, JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON as MALCOLM. DOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021

I don’t necessarily know what I expected going into Malcolm and Marie but I remember thinking the film will certainly feature some of the best performances of the year and that is without a doubt the case. Malcolm and Marie is a film about films and criticism, but it’s also a film about human complexities and navigating through them. It’s a film that calls for a variety of different analytical lenses and a film that is masterful with its performances that serve as its greatest strength throughout.

And that could sort of vary from person to person. What do people look for in films that don’t exactly fill their exact emotional desires? For me, it’s performances. If I’m watching something that might be too dark or too something for the sake of my own mental health, then I’m looking for the performances. And Zendaya who embodies and shines remarkably in every single role she is in is this film’s gem. There is not a single moment throughout the film’s run where Zendaya isn’t conveying a full range of emotions or speaking through her silence, the quivering lips, or her physicality. There is not a single moment where she doesn’t astound or evoke the most nuanced human emotions with grace and vulnerability. (And there is one scene in particular, if you’ve seen it, you know it, that’s just so utterly brilliant, there are so few words to describe it.)

There are countless reviews out there and unsurprisingly either commenting on the conception of film criticism or taking apart the jaw dropping performances–understandably so, that is we are going to do as well. John David Washington and Zendaya played off of one another with such masterful ease, I never wanted to blink—even when I was frustrated, even when I was sad, they created something robustly enigmatic and the fact that both were snubbed during the thus far announced award nominations is just downright baffling.

Malcolm and Marie is surprising, it’s thrilling, and it’s quiet. It breaks barriers in order to address human struggles and there are more than a few moments that hit like a pile of bricks to the gut if anyone has ever failed to understand their own complexities. It’s a film about creativity and what that creativity means to you along with how it’s received from audiences, readers, and even your loved ones. Why do we care so much? Why does reception matter? Is it even important?

Whoever you are, whatever you do, to a degree, we all care. We all wonder. It matters. Did my work impact someone? Did it reach someone? Did they understand the thing I wanted them to understand or did they take in a whole other direction that has now left us annoyed? It’s a seemingly never ending cycle that can often leave us drained and tired. There are good days and there are bad days, but they matter. They matter because stories matter and our work matters–for creative people especially, if you care about the thing you are putting out, it matters. It matters tremendously. It’s hard to kill our darlings. It’s hard to see other people rip them apart, too. But it matters, and the film does a riveting job of posing these questions through the form of a romantic relationship.

It’s an almost two hour long remarkably dazing gem full of profoundly moving and harrowing conversations about dreams, people, needs, and what relationships look like when two people are not always on the same page. When a relationship isn’t exactly healthy. It’s a film that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways because it’s a film that looks into human relationships and the immense power that’s boldly present when people believe in and love others. And again, how that reflects our creativity, too.

It’s a film that asks questions, answers them, and leaves others up in the air. It’s a film full of quiet moments and a film full of screaming, emotionally charged arguments that make you feel. (And continue to question how on earth both stars were robbed from accolades.) It’s a film that inspires (and effortlessly) to look into yourself, into your own demons, and your own dreams.

It’s a film that leaves you wondering and hoping. It’s raw, it’s intriguingly sardonic and dark sometimes, but mostly, it’s a reminder that people care and people care in different ways. It’s a reminder that human complexities are always to be celebrated, looked into with empathy and understanding because no two people share the same experiences no matter how closely related the situation. And it’s the reminder that it is those very differences weaved in with similarities that could help human beings find solace and growth with one another.

Have you watched Malcolm and Marie? What was your biggest takeaway from the film? Let us know in the comments below.

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