Marriage Story Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: acting by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver; realistic characters; everyday scenes; Shooting on film Cons: there are scenes that may seem unnecessary for the timing of Marriage Story

Drama genre
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Cast: Scarlett Johansson (Nicole), Adam Driver (Charlie), Laura Dern (Nicole’s lawyer), Ray Liotta (Charlie’s lawyer), Merritt Weaver (Cassie), Mark O’Brien (Carter), Alan Alda (Bert), Julie Hagerty (Sandra), Kyle Bornheimer (Ted), etc.
Heyday Films, Netflix
Year of release 2019
IMDb website

The film follows a New York couple going through a divorce. Charlie (Adam Driver) is an avant-garde theater director who has received recognition and an invitation to Broadway. Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is an actress from his troupe who is offered the lead role in a TV series filming in Los Angeles. The couple is raising a young son, whom they love equally, but moving to another city raises the question of sharing custody. An amicable separation gradually transforms into an unpleasant divorce process, which reveals old grievances and differences in outlook on life.

The idea to make a dramatic film about a breakup belongs to Noah Baumbach, who acted as the director and screenwriter of the project. Despite Netflix’s production support, Baumbach created a slow-paced indie film that eschewed mainstream glossy tropes. Thanks to this approach to drama production, the film appeals to the viewer’s personal feelings, relying on everyday and emotional moments that are usually not paid attention to in big cinema.


The big feature of the film is that it was shot on 35mm film, which can add a warm atmosphere to any event. Some scenes from Marriage Story simply wouldn’t have had the desired effect digitally, whereas film transforms them into entertaining vignettes from everyday life. Behind this is also the work of experienced cinematographer Robbie Ryan (who worked on Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favorite), who covers the right areas with his camera.


When the director focuses on the emotions of the main characters, Robbie Ryan shoots continuous shots. Sometimes the camera moves with the characters around the house, which further immerses you in the story, which tells about the lives of ordinary people.

While watching, you get the impression that director Noah Baumbach sympathizes with the two main characters. He tries to show the situation from the point of view of each of them, without assigning one person as the culprit. Apart from the opening scene where the couple visits a psychologist, there are no flashbacks in the film, so we learn about their past during the process of divorce. The director tries to tell how the couple ended up in a state of estrangement, and whether the characters can go even further in their discontent.


Under the conditions set by the down-to-earth script, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play their roles wonderfully. Their characters are completely real people, whose main features are shown without cinematic exaggeration. When Johansson and Driver come together in one of the climactic scenes, their fight seems very real, and that makes it all the more terrible.

Actors Laura Dern, Ray Liotta and Alan Alda also appear in the film. They play lawyers conducting divorce proceedings. Two of them reflect a caustic system in which the desire for triumph becomes more important than the emotional state of the client.


Sometimes the scenes involving lawyers become too much. Although they all, of course, make sense and help to understand the situation in which the main characters find themselves. There are other moments in the film that may be considered unnecessary and weigh down the running time. However, this is precisely the essence of the director’s story, who dives into details, trying to show from all sides what happens to a family after a divorce.


Marriage Story is presented as a very personal experience, and parts of it will likely be familiar to many viewers. At the same time, the picture is not devoid of light situational humor, which also reveals real life.


atmospheric drama with life scenes and excellent acting performances. Thanks to them, at the end of the story the conclusion is clear without further ado.

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