‘Malcom and Marie’: beauty inside the disaster of reality

Malcom & Marie depicts the unpleasant and often overlooked realities of relationships.

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Malcom & Marie depicts the unpleasant and often overlooked realities of relationships.

By Madison Meeks, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

Romance movies should be easy-going and light-hearted. They should be laced with cheesy pick up lines and a few missteps to resemble reality. Romance movies, especially Black romance films, hardly reflect reality. Instead, they depict the reality we hope to live in: a world where “happily ever afters” exist, hurtful words sting only temporarily and both people are the best versions of themselves. 

In short, romance films are mere figments of the unrealistic notion of love and relationships. 

“Malcom and Marie” completely forgoes all of the aforementioned characteristics of romance movies by showcasing the realities of relationships and love. And for this, many people dislike this film because “It was too harsh” and “He hit below the belt” and “His words stung ‘too deeply.’”– not realizing life is full of harshness, hitting below the belt and stinging, hurtful words. 

Just like the ocean tides, love and relationships are ever-changing. One minute, the tide is turbulent and dangerous, and the next, it is calm and protecting. Perhaps the most complex thing about the ocean tide is that it can be perceived as a beautiful act of nature or a representation of the ruthlessness of nature. 

I would like to argue it represents both: the beautiful representation of the ruthlessness of nature, and this is the same for the movie ”Malcom and Marie.” 

Firstly, the production and cinematography of this film has to be commended. This black-and-white film did not lack any color in regards to the seamless flow of scene switches or plot development. As unpredictable as this movie was, one thing remained constant, and it was the beauty in the delivery of this story. 

As mentioned countless times before, most films centered around a couple are romantic. They’re centered around the happy moments in the relationship–the dates, the cuddles and the cute bonding moments. “Malcom and Marie” does the exact opposite. Throughout the entire film, Malcolm and Marie are arguing–and no, this isn’t your typical playground arguing either. They are spewing words filled with malice, animosity and passion. Their words are in a constant tug-of-war, trying to see who will pull away with the victory and say something to finally push the other to a breaking point of realization. 

It is of the utmost necessity that the undeniably superb acting done by Zendaya, as Marie, and John David Washington, as Malcolm, must be mentioned. They give life to these characters. Zendaya delivers the right amount of brokenness and strength to allow one to sympathize with Marie, a recovered drug addict, aspiring actress and Malcolm’s supportive girlfriend. At the same time, it is Washington’s (yes, Denzel Washington’s son) oddball, eccentric and egotistical portrayal of Malcolm that allows the audience to appreciate his character as an atypical lover and a film director. 

The spark that set the fire of this movie ablaze was the oh-so unfortunate (and inexcusable) act of Malcolm forgetting to thank Marie during his speech at his movie premiere. Marie did what most women would do– act like it’s fine until it’s not. After the Kraft macaroni and cheese was made, the boxing gloves were on, the bell rang and the ball was in motion for the chaos–called the plot– of this film. 

Their arguments were brutal. They attacked each other emotionally on different levels I can’t even fathom. Nonetheless, if one truly listens to them, one can realize Malcolm and Marie don’t understand each other’s love languages. They have neglected to acknowledge each other in their respective self developments. They no longer communicated their appreciation for each other, and this, combined with their unresolved issues, created for a disaster. Their real issue was their love blinded them from identifying themselves within the relationship, and they no longer knew how to communicate any emotions to each other. 

I think the most confusing aspect of this movie is they had moments where they seemed like the perfect couple. They had this odd way of communicating with each other through the lyrics of certain songs. Marie would listen to Malcolm rant on and on about his love for film. They would share this special intimacy only people in love could share, but it would be short-lived– much like the ocean tide. 

As said several times before, this movie is brutal. It goes against the typical romance film. It acknowledges the dichotomous realities of relationships while giving birth to some interesting characters. All around, the movie is amazing.  They hit below the belt, they scream, they curse, they cry and they scream– oh, do they scream. And it is the “ugly” depicted in this movie that makes it so beautiful. For once, a film was finally created where the couple did not live in this fairytale world where the relationship is happy and healthy. This film shows the reality of relationships: an ever-changing turbulent phenomena bringing heartache, headache, peace and joy at any given moment. 

This is exactly what the self-reliant, self-aware Gen Z’ers needed to see: a movie finally showcasing the dualities of love and relationships. 

This is exactly what we all needed to see. 

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on February 17, 2021.