Malcolm & Marie: an emotionally draining film about love

Orval Howard

Malcolm & Marie is a new Netflix film starring John David Washington and Zendaya. The film centers around the two characters, Malcolm & Marie, arriving home after Malcolm’s directorial film premiere. Their relationship is tested as problems between them surface into one big fight spanning the length of the film as they wait for the critic reviews for the film. 

John David Washington is an actor that I have grown to enjoy quite a bit. I first saw him on the HBO show, Ballers. More recently, I watched him in Tenet and I really enjoyed his performance in that film. Zendaya is a talented actress that I have enjoyed in the Spider-man films. When I heard that the two have filmed a new movie during the COVID summer, I was excited to see what they would create. 

Let’s talk about the Orval-all picture of Malcolm & Marie to see if it worth your time. 

What stands out the most to me is the performances in the film. Washington and Zendaya are the only two people in the entire film, so it quite literally rides on their shoulders to carry this film. Zendaya delivers an amazing and heartfelt performance that was captivating and honest. Washington was a little hit and miss through the film. There were times that I felt he was overacting but I enjoyed him for the most part. 

The two characters have their own personal problems. Marie is a recovered addict and Malcolm is a self-absorbed filmmaker who cares about his own success. The actors bring to life these characters and their love-hate relationship. I heard a quote that is fitting for this film, “This is not a love story. It is a story about love.” They go from “I love you” to “I hate you” in a breath. 

The black and white cinematography is beautiful. I know people in the 21-century don’t appreciate older films because they are not in color. However, I love when we can see a film in black and white. We don’t get them very often these days. I think they are absolutely beautiful, and this film is no exception.  

Sam Levinson, the director, used long shots that linger on the actors for quite some time. The actors have the opportunity to actually act. In one single shot that lasts for a minute or two the actors go through an array of emotions and display their talents as actors. I really appreciated this aspect of the film because it felt like they were real people. 

The last good thing I have to say about the film is that there were some strong messages there. From Malcolm, there was a message that not everything a black filmmaker creates is meant to be political. He is just a man creating film because he wants to tell a story. Then with Marie, there is a message that in supporting a person through so much for so long it can lead to losing your own identity. I found both of these messages thought provoking. 

The entire one hour and forty-six minutes of the film is about one big argument between the couple. This is where I did not quite enjoy the film as much. I appreciated that we get to spend time with these characters and through their argument, we get some insight on their relationship and who they are as people. Though it dragged on a little too long. The film is not too exciting because it’s about this toxic relationship. It is emotionally draining to watch these two people at each other’s throats for an hour and half. It is very story driven and is an obvious Oscar bait of a film. 

 I do not typically enjoy these types of films because there is no action. Even my favorite dramas have some type of action that escalates the story. The protagonist must go on some kind of quest, but films like this are told and shot like a theater play. This is boring to watch most of the times. 

This is a film that I won’t be watching again anytime soon. One time for the one time, it was fine enough. It is not a ground-breaking film and is not going to be for everybody. If you’re having trouble sleeping at the end of the day, I would recommend Malcolm & Marie. One dose is sure to have you fast asleep within 30-45 minutes.