A Film Reviewer’s Thoughts on Marriage Story and Real Marriages

By Bill Arbuckle
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Abandoned wedding rings on the ground show the loss depicted in the Marriage Story movie.
Photo by Zoriana Stakhniv on Unsplash
Critics praise the way Marriage Story portrays a couple in crisis, but film reviewer Paul Asay says there's a powerful message behind Marriage Story.

“It was powerful,” Plugged In movie reviewer Paul Asay shared his thoughts on Marriage Story, the Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver film nominated for six Academy Awards. Paul Asay has reviewed hundreds of films during his career with Focus on the Family but says there’s something different about Marriage Story. “It’s really a divorce story. And it’s the strongest argument against divorce that I’ve seen.”

The movie gives viewers a look at the lives of its main characters, Charlie and Nicole Barber. He’s a theater director in New York City. She’s a former TV star from Los Angeles. On the surface, they seem to have a genuine love for each other, but Charlie and Nicole are headed for divorce.

A marriage story about pain

Marriage Story has a lot of profane language. Some of it is graphic. But the acting in Marriage Story is so poignant,” Paul Asay says. “Charlie and Nicole are so likable. You feel empathy for them both. Because you like them so much, watching their relationship crumble is painful.”

And Marriage Story centers on the pain. The pain we feel from watching a marriage self-destruct, the pain the main characters feel as they tear away from each other and the pain their young son suffers as he watches his parents separate.

The pain is intentional. Writer-director Noah Baumbach drew from his own experiences to create an on-screen couple who face the heartbreaking challenges other couples feel in real-life. “The story felt universal,” movie reviewer Paul Asay said. “We relate. You can see this in couples you know.”

A marriage story about little things

Marriage Story also dared to show the choices, decisions and the thousand tiny mistakes that add up over the course of a relationship and can cause severe damage if not dealt with. “This is a movie about little things. Moments of connections. Little things really add up into huge problems,” Asay says. Marriage Story also showed how those little things can be used in positive ways. Paul Asay wished the on-screen couple had embraced more of those little moments. “If there could be more moments like that, could this marriage have been preserved? Maybe. But they don’t lean into them.”

How to write your own marriage story

From a film reviewer’s perspective, Paul Asay says the movie was well-acted. Marriage Story felt “real.” Real enough to make real-life couples examine their marriage relationships. “The point I’d like to drive home is about communication. Listen to each other before your relationship starts to decay. Show your spouse you value them and discuss issues before they become problems. Do whatever you can to keep the relationship intact.”

Marriage is a gift. Your spouse is a treasure. There is hope — even if you’re both struggling. Sometimes that hope can be renewed by taking time to do little things. Maybe one of those things is to consider the lessons from Marriage Story. “If you’re thinking about divorce, this will make you think again,” Asay says. And there’s one more thing you can do to help rewrite your marriage story: reach out. There are people ready to help.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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