The highly anticipated Netflix film “Malcolm & Marie,” starring John David Washington and Zendaya Coleman, can be summed up in one word: uncomfortable. The movie is beautifully shot in black and white with camera angles that emphasize the intimacy of the situation by making watchers feel as if they are there. “Malcolm & Marie” chronicles one evening of a destructive couple who hold nothing back in their individual pursuits to win an argument.
The movie is categorized as a romance film, but completely misses the mark. In reality, the movie shows an emotionally abusive couple who care very little about each other, which is shown through their attempts to tear each other down.
Washington’s character, Malcolm, is a movie director who has just made it big for the first time following his film about a 20-year-old recovering drug addict. Marie is a failed actress, devout girlfriend and a recovering drug addict.
Their fight begins in the kitchen when Marie feels underappreciated because Malcolm forgets to thank her in his movie premiere speech. What continues next is a verbally abusive display of a toxic relationship, and a night of gaslighting and lack of empathy toward each other as the couple argues about the other’s shortcomings.
The soundtrack is what made this movie, in my opinion, as it was used as a tool of narration. The characters were seen throughout the movie playing songs for each another that in some way displayed the feelings they couldn’t seem to say.
Malcolm plays William Bell’s melodramatic 1969 hit “I Forgot To Be Your Lover” to apologize to Marie for forgetting about her in his speech. Lines like “Oh, I forgot to be your lover / And I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you somehow, baby,” show a tenderness toward Marie that Malcolm rarely shows.
Ultimately, this movie demonstrates jealousy seen in both characters in such an extreme nature that rids the relationship of kindness and forgiveness often seen in romance. Marie is jealous of Malcolm and his success in an industry she can’t catch a break in. Malcolm is jealous nothing tragic has ever happened in his comparatively privileged life that he can write about, which is seen in his persistence that his film is completely original and has nothing to do with Marie.
This movie has an ambiguous end as the couple is seen reuniting after a night of fighting as the sun rises. “Liberation” by Outkast featuring CeeLo Green plays in the background with the line, “There’s a fine line between love and hate, you see,” perfectly encapsulating a movie where, as a watcher, I constantly wondered if they even liked each other.
While I thought it was a beautiful movie, I think the film came dangerously close to romanticizing an abusive relationship. This movie is not a love story, even though the sparingly sweet moments between the couple might paint it to be.