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Malcolm & Marie

12 February 2021

MALCOLM & MARIE, US, 2021. Starring Zendaya, John David Washington. Directed by Sam Levinson. 106 minutes. Rated MA (Strong coarse language).

Words can be brutal. Silence after brutal words can be healing.

And we share these experiences with Malcolm and Marie. While their conversations and recriminations are complex, this story is filmed in stark black and white.

Malcolm (John David Washington – BlacKkKlansman, Tenet) is a film writer-director, returning from a successful premiere of his new film, audiences responsive, critics praising. He is on an adrenaline high, singing and dancing around the kitchen, beyond exuberant. Marie, (Zendaya ­– The Greatest Showman, Euphoria) is his partner, dressed stylishly for the occasion, rather silent but cooking macaroni cheese for Malcolm (which he devours avidly).

Then the point – or at least the initial point… No, after 90 minutes, it is definitely the point. Malcolm has not thanked Marie publicly, omitted from his huge list of thanks, badly-unconsciously overlooking her. Her reminder is an accusation. In fact, there are layers and layers under Malcolm’s exuberance. Marie challenges him to go down into those layers. As their interchanges go on, emotionally gruelling for them, emotionally gruelling for us, the audience. How do we identify? With whom? Different points of view, different perspectives, changing sympathies.

Malcolm is a bluff male, dominant, self-assured, shocked at Marie’s outburst and sustained attack, an onslaught. And he is shamed by his behaviour. But he goes on the attack, questioning her motives, revealing her past story, the past, drug addiction, which he has incorporated into his film.

But she goes deeper. Why didn’t he cast her in her own story?

John David Washington is convincing as Malcolm. But Zendaya has the more complex role, more complex and tortured character, having more mood swings – and a powerful scene with a resume of her painful past. And writer-director, Sam Levinson, gives her a marvellous sustained monologue where she puts a long list of gratitude and thanks into Malcolm’s mouth.

After the verbal and emotional battle, comes the realisation of their love, and the film ends in silence.

Released 4 January
Peter Malone MSC is an associate Jesuit Media


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