Malcom & Marie, Netflix’ s newest film starring Zendaya and John David Washington, directed by Sam Levinson, is already making award season buzz just a week after its release. The film follows a filmmaker (John David Washington) and his girlfriend (Zendaya) returning home from a successful premiere of his breakthrough film, as a long night of tumultuous fighting ensues, culminating in a question of their future together.
Filmed in black and white on 35mm film, the entire movie takes place within the house they’re staying at, and features only the two main characters. For such a minimalist premise, great dialogue, acting, and cinematography were needed to keep us engaged throughout the entire 1 hour and 46 minute runtime. Unfortunately, Malcolm & Marie failed to consistently deliver. From the get-go, it is clear that Malcom and Marie are on different wavelengths, giving us little to root for when disruption erupts between them, and neither character is particularly likeable (despite their tragic backstories). Furthermore, although there are some beautiful shots and touching moments, they are blunted by their repetitiveness. Half way through the film, we find ourselves asking “exactly how many times can I watch this couple fight and make up again?” Even more unbearable is Malcom’s continual ranting about society’s lack of appreciation for the art of filmmaking, which is just as pretentious as the film itself. Zendaya’s superb acting skills make a few moments in the film worth watching (particularly one moment around 80 minutes in), but overall it falls short of the artsy masterpiece which Levinson was clearly trying too hard to achieve.