Released on Feb. 5, “Malcolm & Marie,” directed by Sam Levinson, tells a romantic drama from an artistic point of view that some would find either entertaining or emotionally draining. This Netflix original stars only two characters: Zendaya as Marie and John David Washington as Malcolm.
Levinson takes a different approach to storytelling that is appreciated but can be rather exhausting by the end of the film. He unravels the story in the form of an argument. While the film plays out, the audience learns more about the two characters and their lives as the argument between the couple grows, which is an original idea that the filmmakers cleverly put into motion.
From an artistic standpoint, this film is spot on and has several admirable qualities. It shines with its ambiguous ending, allowing the audience to form their own interpretations. The lengthy arguments between Zendaya and Washington cause the film to be slow-paced at points, but the complex dialogue captures viewers’ attention. Throughout the film, black and white drapes each scene in a classic way, defying today’s filming norms. Bringing back the monochromatic aesthetic, the film also uses jazz to its advantage. The instrumental parts are neatly placed during the course of the film, amplifying the situation surrounding the characters and filling the silence.
The film has contrasting themes of simplicity and complexity that show in the frame shots. “Malcolm and Marie” takes place entirely in the couple’s home. Despite the lack of diverse settings, the film uses different camera angles and impressive shots to capture the story and hold the audience’s attention for its one hour and forty-six minute run time.
The film’s concept only works because of the chemistry created during Zendaya and Washington’s on-screen acting dynamic. Zendaya has come a long way in her acting skills from her first performance on the Disney Channel show “Shake It Up” in the early 2010s. “Malcolm & Marie” really showcases Zendaya’s growth as she demonstrates her range in the film, specifically during a scene in which her character Marie delivers an Oscar-worthy performance that brings shock and awe to the audience.
Washington also does a brilliant job at highlighting his character’s qualities and conveying the story through an argument. Each character’s dialogue held comments meant to hurt the other, but both Washington and Zendaya kept their focus and gave beautifully delivered lines.
The elements of this film were interesting to a point but were by no means considered “showstopping.” There were many notable artistic characteristics, but from an entertainment perspective, it became exhausting. “Malcolm & Marie” was gorgeous in its own making and showcases interesting approaches that some films have yet to uncover.