The Oscar Project Reviews
To say that Malcolm & Marie is just a drama about a couple fighting with each other over the course of one night is a vast oversimplification. The layers to this film run deeper than the emotions of the title characters that play out on the screen and must be peeled back one at a time to truly understand its importance.
At its core, this is a film about a relationship, one that is tested by influences both internal and external. Malcolm (John David Washington) is an up and coming young film director who returns home after a film premier with his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya). He is on top of the world after receiving a number of accolades about his film, which focuses on the troubled life of a young girl addicted to drugs. While Malcolm is overjoyed about the reception, he is angry about the critical reaction, even before the reviews have been published. And to top it off, Marie is mad...about something.
It has been said that art made within limitations often leads to better art and this couldn't be more true of Malcolm & Marie. Filmed entirely in one location during the summer of 2020 at the initial height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, it keeps things simple by letting the characters act and react on the screen before us. You won't find any quick camera moves here. There are no expensive special effects. The house itself is simple and the use of black and white as a medium is clearly intentional to keep the color textures simple, even though nothing in the content of the film is ever black and white.
The film itself is a roller coaster of emotion. Anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship likely knows many of the fights the pair have throughout the night and understands that the "initial problem" that starts the fight probably isn't the "actual problem." Both Zendaya and Washington have their moments to shine being equally raging and quiet, contemplative and emotional. They go from being sexy and intimate one moment, to screaming at each other and calling out terribly hurtful names the next. It feels real without being forced.
In the end, many people will see this as nothing more than a couple arguing on screen for two hours, but there is so much more to unpack here. In a world where nothing is certain, this feels like the most basic kind of uncertainty out there and one that everyone can relate to.
9 out of 10
Malcolm & Marie is available streaming exclusively on Netflix.