By Vivian Ebiske
“This is not a love story… it is a story about love” was the phrase that stuck to me as I watched the trailer for the widely-anticipated movie starring two incredibly talented actors, Zendaya and John David Washington, Malcolm & Marie. I found the phrase incredibly corny, but I was still excited to watch the movie, nonetheless.
After my hard work during the week, I decided to finally rest and watch the movie. I did everything but rest as I watched the chaotic masterpiece that was this “love story.”
The movie begins with Malcolm and Marie coming home from Malcolm’s movie premiere. As he was dancing around the house, still excited after showing the world his directorial skills, Marie is visibly upset. She answers Malcolm’s questions curtly. She trudges around the house. She lights a cigarette to calm her nerves. And Malcolm does not seem to notice.
Eventually, Malcolm finally notices her anger and is determined to find out its source. He finally got it after a wonderfully executed scene of Marie making mac & cheese: he forgot to thank her during his speech at the movie premiere. From there, the viewer watches the couple argue for the next hour and a half over this issue.
You might think, “That’s it? That’s why they’re arguing?” No. There’s more to it than just a shout-out in a speech. It is the fact that Marie does not feel appreciated. She believes that Malcolm does not appreciate her existence. And we can tell that he doesn’t, with the way he speaks to her throughout the duration of the movie.
When Marie calls him out about the fact that he thanked everyone else in his life (even some people who weren’t as significant), except her, he just says that it was an accident -- it slipped his mind. He apologizes, but he never properly thanks her. Instead, he says something along the lines of, “You know I’m grateful for what you do.” Sometimes, people just need to hear it. The fact that he never utters the words, “thank you,” to appease her says a lot about his character.
Marie then says that she played an instrumental role in his movie since it was based on her past battle with addiction. Based on the plot of his movie, it definitely seems that way. So much so that it cannot be a pure coincidence that the main character is struggling with addiction at the age of 20, which was the same age when Marie was too. Malcolm immediately shuts this idea down by calling her “crazy” and “insane.” He continues to berate her as he casually eats the mac & cheese that she made for him. He even proceeds to get seconds.
As the situation continues to escalate, the arguments become worse. The gloves come off. They hit below the belt. Malcolm is the main one who hits it where it hurts. He threw her past addiction and the fact that she used to self-harm in her face. He also talked about his ex-girlfriends and implicitly stated how much better they were than her. He even said, “I will snap you like a twig” to convey how small he can make her feel. The only thing Marie said that hurt him was he lacked authenticity.
I must note that between these emotionally exhausting arguments were tender moments shared between the two. This goes to show how toxic their relationship is. It is odd for anyone to believe that going from “I will snap you like a twig” to “I want to marry you right now” is healthy. It also goes to show that whoever made the trailer for this movie shamelessly catfished the audience! This is not love!
After I finished watching the movie, feeling unsatisfied with the ending since there was no closure, I logged onto Twitter to see other people’s opinions. One person said that their relationship was “real love.” In their eyes, real love is sticking with the person regardless of what they put you through because of how much in love you are with them. They also go on to say that the younger generation does not know what “real love” is because we’re too weak-willed to continue with its trials and tribulations.
I must reiterate that this is not real love. Though we may all have different definitions of love, I believe that we can come to a consensus on a primary element of love, which is care. If you truly care for someone, you would not do what Malcolm did in this film. If you truly care, you would not put yourself and your partner through emotionally-charged arguments on a consistent basis, as Marie alluded to at the beginning of the movie. Times have changed, and we don’t have to endure the same kind of abuse that people probably did in past generations because we have options now. I would rather be called “weak-willed” than to be in a relationship like Malcolm and Marie’s.
There were many other pivotal elements in the movie, like the phenomenal cinematography and acting, but I wanted to emphasize the plot and reactions to the plot because it is a reality for many couples. People are seeing how awful their past or current relationships are through this film. Though it was taxing to watch, Malcolm & Marie is an amazing movie because it teaches the audience a lesson of what their relationship should not look like, and if it does, they should do something to change their circumstance.