Fourth Estate/Billy Ferguson

“Malcolm & Marie”


“Malcolm & Marie” is a Netflix film that beautifully represents modern societal struggles through the lives of a young couple, telling an ornate story over the course of a night-long argument. 

I first found out about this film on Zendaya’s Instagram, where she wrote a long post announcing this project and explaining how proud of it she was. 

“This is my first time being a leading lady, but also my first time being this creatively involved in something … We made this as a family show in 14 days with a 22 person crew [who] I am eternally grateful for,” she wrote in her caption. “If there’s anything to learn from this year, and I hope from our little movie, it’s gratitude for every moment and every person we get to love.” 

Zendaya and John David Washington portray a couple with a long history together: Malcolm is a successful filmmaker who just got his first big break, and his girlfriend Marie is a recovering addict who gave up her acting career to dedicate herself to their relationship. 

The film begins as a typical lovers’ quarrel over a lack of appreciation, then shifts to a discussion of deeper personal issues and insecurities. In one scene, Marie brings up the difference in social status between the two, saying Malcolm can have no shame or guilt because he never lived on the streets like she did. 

The film also addresses many timely social issues, including societal pressure, racism and the prevalence of suicide and substance abuse — especially relevant as rates are rising during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a poignant scene discussing Marie’s history of addiction and mental health issues, she snaps, “Try slitting your wrists with a pair of nail scissors. You’re not gonna wanna survive it, because it’s embarrassing. Don’t worry. I’m not so petty I throw it out in arguments because I’m angry.”

Through the cast’s body language and facial expressions, the audience feels the heat and the passion in their arguments as they try to educate each other on the feelings and issues that are important to them. As the argument continues, you can see similarities emerge between the two characters. 

Sam Levinson, the director of the film, used his own marital struggles as inspiration. He used the theme of forgetting to thank your loved ones as a gateway to many other issues discussed in the movie, emphasizing the importance of never taking someone for granted.

“It’s not just about forgetting to thank me, Malcolm. It’s about how you see me, and how you view my contribution — not just to this relationship, but to your work. Specifically in the movie you made about my life,” says Marie.

Visually, the movie’s introduction had my inner photographer jumping up and down with excitement. It was shot on 35mm film and recorded entirely at the Caterpillar House, an award-winning home in Carmel, California. They weave in and out of the house as they argue, and the rustic landscape surrounding the house is highlighted by the black-and-white film. 

The way it was shot accentuated the film and dialogue beautifully; I could watch this movie without sound and still enjoy it because the imagery is so gorgeous. The aesthetic itself will capture you almost immediately. 

The movie is composed primarily of dialogue without any flashbacks. I wish we got more showing than telling but since it was filmed during the pandemic, there are limitations.

Overall, “Malcolm & Marie” shows how tough conversations are necessary, and sparks a conversation about the film industry and how society’s influence has ruined the artistic creativity that once prevailed.

It was beautiful, aesthetically pleasing and unique, standing out from any other movie in this generation.