Malcolm & Marie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

“Malcolm and Marie” / Malcolm & Marie

Drama genre
Directed by Sam Levinson
Starring John David Washington (Malcolm), Zendaya (Marie)
Little Lamb Studios, The Reasonable Bunch
Release year 2021
Site IMDb

It would have sounded completely crazy a year ago, but Malcolm & Marie was one of the first films to be approved during the pandemic by the Screenwriters Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of the USA. Participants in the filming process followed safety protocols, and the number of people working directly on the set was reduced to a minimum.

Actually, for a film of this magnitude, you can really do without a large film crew. The action of the picture takes place in one location, and only two leading actors appear in the frame – John David Washington, who played the main role in the film “Tenet” (Tenet), as well as Zendaya, known for the TV series “Euphoria” (Euphoria). By the way, they both acted as producers of the tape.

It is noteworthy that the creator of the full-length drama was Sam Levinson, the showrunner of the aforementioned Euphoria, which speaks frankly about teenage relationships and drug addiction. Visually, the film “Malcolm and Marie” is completely different from the series, where there was a lot of color, neon and glitter. And in terms of content, the picture is focused on adult relationships, in which a conflict suddenly flares up, the cause of which remained unspoken for a long time.


The film begins when the characters return home from an important event. Malcolm had just shown his film to the public and critics, and Marie accompanied him that evening. The night of the directorial debut celebration gradually turns into a tense conversation, during which the couple alternately reconcile, then quarrel, jumping from personal grievances to a discussion of cinema and its politicized perception.

We can say for sure that “Malcolm and Marie” is one of those films that you immediately like or instantly reject. It will not have new characters, tense scenes or plot twists that turn the perception of reality. This is a real conversational drama that reveals a long period of relationships between the main characters, which gradually outlines the details from the past and present. If the film manages to hook the viewer with its presentation, it will not let go until the very end, juggling with emotional outbursts that actors are extremely good at.

John David Washington and Zendaya make a great on-screen couple, taking turns giving more and more feelings. They constantly oppose each other, remaining in a single bundle, and splashing out emotions that the cameraman picks up in close-ups. It is always interesting to watch the struggle of two actors who do not try to be attractive to the camera (and still remain extremely aesthetic). At the same time, the words of their characters can cause different reactions, up to irritation or sympathy – who knows whether it is worth taking sides, and whether there is someone who is unequivocally right in such matters.

Both heroes take turns destroying each other, but as soon as a winner emerges, the conversation changes direction (although everything eventually returns to the same topic, which can be a little tiresome). Sometimes music complements what is happening, and Malcolm and Marie turn on songs in order to express their feelings at a certain moment in this way.


Interestingly, through dialogue, Sam Levinson quite clearly outlines the background of the couple’s relationship, without resorting to flashbacks. Also in the film there is a kind of dynamics that affects the perception of the dialogue: the characters move in a vicious circle of a large house, finding themselves either inside or outside it, creating a similarity with a theatrical performance. The camera follows them almost continuously, breaking away from Washington and Zendaya only to change plans, which over time creates the effect of being in a house where the viewer becomes a witness to an all-too-personal argument.

From a painfully personal couple, they move on to a discussion of how the press perceives films – the main character, being a cinematographer, harbors dislike for white critics, denouncing their pomposity and desire to see the true meanings in the work of black directors (judging by the English-language reviews of Malcolm and Marie ”, not all critics appreciated this irony in Sam Levinson’s script).

In a sense, “Malcolm and Marie” is a picture not only about relationships, but also about the perception of cinema, which can be very different from the point of view of the creator and the viewer. You can get to these reflections only by being fascinated by the visual component of the film, which resembles the spread of a glossy magazine or frames from old films. A stylish picture is obtained thanks to the cameraman Marcel Rev, who made the film incredibly beautiful, shooting material on black and white film.

Pros: The aesthetics of the film; the work of John David Washington and Zendaya paired; a film about relationships and the perception of cinema Cons: the tape revolves around the same topic all the time, which not everyone can stand Conclusion:

Malcolm & Marie is a very beautiful conversational film with good performances by the two actors. With incessant disputes, he will either immediately alienate the viewer, or capture his attention until the very end of the tape.

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