Malcolm & Marie: Broken People and Toxic Love

Armando Gimenez ’22

In early February, Netflix released an obscure film that differs from anything they have put out as of late. Malcolm & Marie, a two-character black and white film, explores the dynamics of a toxic relationship, alongside both partners’ parasitic behaviors. When it first released, Malcolm & Marie was divisive among its viewers. Many people who watched the movie felt as though they wasted their time, simply watching a couple argue for about two hours with nothing having changed or achieved by the film’s end. This, however, was not the film’s true intention. 

This movie is built with sedulity and obscurity, slowly dividing the audience with the constant arguing and bickering of two uniquely flawed individuals. The film exists for the purpose of showing how a toxic relationship remains unbroken; how the hatred, the bitterness, and the frustration is contrasted with the deep and desperate emotional neediness of these damaged people. Although the movie tempts you to pick sides, you likely never do, for the simple fact that neither of them are in the right.

Malcolm & Marie' First Reactions: Zendaya, John David Washington Soar |  IndieWire

Malcolm & Marie takes place in a single setting: the new home of the couple, gifted to Malcolm by his producers. The movie intentionally stays within this house and explores every facet of the house to display its grandiose. The cinematography utilizes wide shots presenting a single character isolated in a large room, displaying how small someone could feel in such a pointlessly large space, and cleverly showing the deep loneliness that Malcolm and Marie feel without the other close by. The house develops as a character in its own way, completely passive, but still actively affecting Malcolm and Marie’s thoughts and emotions. 

Despite my attempts at it, this movie is impossible to be spoiled. It has no distinct journey. It is simply argument after argument, with no winners or losers. While the arguments  between the two may change, no progress is made. The pointlessness of the spite between the two of them, and the hopelessness of each argument ever achieving anything is what’s displayed through this. The desolate state of their relationship, the stagnancy and futility are what make the portrayal of the pain so potently accurate. After they finish saying all of the hurtful and spiteful things they spout like mindless fountains, the two wait in silence, thinking of another topic and avoiding any possibility of confronting their own problems and growing. 

In Malcolm & Marie, Architecture Is Zendaya and John David Washington's  Subtle Costar | Architectural Digest

Malcolm & Marie is a true drama, one that never really ends in any sort of catharsis . Malcolm & Marie never offers its viewers a real conclusion, since this relationship is an unceasing cycle of misguided desire, seething spite, and crushing loneliness. Malcolm and Marie as characters are imperfect, not only in their moralities and wants, but in the fact that they are dependent upon one-another. Both believe they are incomplete and imperfect without the other. Both believe that the other makes them special. No amount of suffering can compare to the pain they feel when they are alone. 

By the end of Malcolm & Marie, the film shows that there is no end in sight, no freedom for these two. Throughout its runtime, the movie shows to the utmost extent how parasitic the relationship is. By the end of your viewing, you will have gone through a myriad of emotions, but you will inevitably be left with nothing but discomfort and sadness, knowing that there is no hope for the two. Malcolm & Marie is not for everyone, but it’s absolutely worth a viewing. The movie finds a way to pull you into its characters and their intense relationships.

In Malcolm & Marie, Architecture Is Zendaya and John David Washington's  Subtle Costar | Architectural Digest

In less than fifteen minutes from its beginning, the film displays so much information about such a relationship. Like a mountain rising up beyond the clouds, the drama continues to ramp up exponentially. You’re waiting for that moment, that moment where the other realizes they are better without the other, where one comes to understand the prison in which they reside, but that moment never comes. Their own insecurities and anxieties keep burying them further into that mountain, filled with suffering, bitterness, and sadness.