Film Review: ‘Marriage Story’ paints love and loss with levity

Updated 18 September 2019

Film Review: ‘Marriage Story’ paints love and loss with levity

VENICE: A French photo-journalist once told me that her former husband would come to her place to mend things — a broken tap, an electrical short-circuit — and she quipped that if only he had been as attentive during his married life, they would have never got divorced. Noah Baumbach’s latest film “Marriage Story,” screened at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, explores the same issue — of a how, whilst a marriage can turn stale, love can remain.

When Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) meet a marriage counsellor, he asks them to list each other’s plus points. She is a great listener, an infectious dancer. He is a superb dresser and dotes on their son. But despite all this, Charlie and Nicole separate, and since the law bars her from handing over the divorce papers to him, she gets her mother and sister to do that. The moment is awkward, it is heartbreaking. Charlie is a Brooklyn theater director, she is his company’s leading lady. Although Charlie and Nicole want things to be absolutely amicable, their lawyers will not let that happen.  

Baumbach’s work is tough (also inspired by his own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Lee), but poignant and painful, underlining in red how money and the law can make a mess of things. 

Cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s lens does a wonderful job of capturing some of the finest moments, dipped in sweet nostalgia, as the husband and wife talk about each other. Baumbach does not let bitterness creep in. On the contrary, he livens up the script with fantastic humor, making sure that “Marriage Story” does not turn into a sob story. There is intimacy, there is dynamism to get us hooked to the screen, and we remain all eyes for 136 minutes, with the final scenes likely to leave audiences floored. 


‘Love on the Spectrum’ is heartfelt, authentic and real

Updated 15 August 2020

‘Love on the Spectrum’ is heartfelt, authentic and real

DHAHRAN: Right on the heels of “Indian Matchmaking,” Netflix acquired streaming rights to Australian dating show “Love on the Spectrum” for a global audience. While these releases offer minority groups visibility and representation in mainstream media (the Indian diaspora and adults on the autism spectrum, respectively) the latter takes a nuanced and thoughtful approach to matchmaking.

“Love on the Spectrum” is also a refreshing departure from the Netflix brand of glamorous, hypersexual reality TV as endorsed by “Too Hot to Handle” and “Love is Blind,” both of which were released earlier this year.

First released on the Australian Broadcast Corp. last fall, the unscripted show follows seven singles on the autism spectrum as they look for love and companionship, and two autistic couples as they make momentous relationship decisions.

“Love on the Spectrum” is also a refreshing departure from the Netflix brand of glamorous, hypersexual reality TV. Supplied

Unobtrusive and done respectfully, the show offers insight into their lives and vulnerabilities — what autism on the spectrum looks like for each individual, the challenges they face in social situations, and why they seek companionship. Alongside heart-warming interviews with participants and their families, the episodes feature first dates, mixer events and sessions with autism or relationship experts.

The highlight of the show remains raw human emotions and the participants’ endearing personalities that shine through. One cannot help but laugh out loud at 25-year-old Michael’s one-liners that double as sage advice.

The highlight of the show remains raw human emotions and the participants’ endearing personalities. Supplied

But while these “quirks” seem loveable and endearing to a neuro-typical audience, autistic audiences have voiced that in their quest to make a show interesting, these snippets romanticize high-functioning autism and disregard Level 3 autism (the most severe). They have also voiced a desire to see an autistic and non-autistic pairing.

At the outset, a show that follows autistic young adults in the dating world may not seem like something one can relate to. But as the five-part docuseries unravels, one can agree that the universal experience of navigating the dating world and finding love is difficult — autistic or not. With awkward first dates and heartbreak, “Love on the Spectrum” is heartfelt, authentic and real, and therein lies the appeal of the show.