Marriage Story is easily one of the most polarizing movies of last year. This 2019 film that was obviously inspired by the work of 1970s directors (especially, John Cassavetes), is truly gut wrenching and gripping in a way that most movies are not. Centering around Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver), we see what happens as their marriage breaks up. Unlike a lot of movies that would show us the good times in order to establish their chemistry, Marriage Story does the complete opposite of that. Through a brutal custody/divorce settlement, we are able to see the relationship that once was in this Netflix Original.
At times you might root for Nicole. At other times you might root for Charlie, however, the goal of Marriage Story isn't to take a side. It is really an examination of what happens between two people that, despite being at their worst, never really stop loving one another. It is this idea that has stayed with viewers and why Marriage Story has resonated so strongly. And the good news is, once the credits roll, you don't have to say "good-bye" to these characters. Marriage Story isn't the first movie to deal with these issues. This film has many brothers, sisters and distant cousins. The best part is you can stream Marriage Story on Netflix and then watch the aforementioned films below, so it's like the Marriage Story in question never really ends.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Part of what makes the Netflix Original Marriage Story so gripping is that it literally cannot have a happy ending. Like the John Cassavetes films that inspired it, it ends with a sense of this is just how life is sometimes. Blue Valentine, from director Derek Cianfrance, is a equally as soul crushing. This tale of a marriage in disrepair is made all the more poignant as it has precisely what Marriage Story is missing. We get to see a mix of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in their salad days. At that point in the relationship when they could literally live for one another and nothing else. When nobody, other than them, mattered. To see what their relationship has become is the kind of story that almost plays as a cautionary tale. If you were gripped by Marriage Story, positively or negatively, Blue Valentine will give you an extra dose of a relationship gone, sadly, wrong.
You Get Me (2017)
Bella Thorne sizzles as Holly, a high school student who will not be cast aside by Tyler (Taylor John Smith) after one night of intimacy. Okay, You Get Me is a big departure from the arty nuance that pervades Marriage Story. What it does tap into is the unbridled passion that brings people together, and at the same time also threatens to tear them apart. This Netflix Original seems, on the face of it, to be a fairly disposable piece of streaming content. Yet, also like Marriage Story, it actually takes a deep dive into relationships. It examines how we treat one another, the decisions we make in the moment, and how sometimes words said one day mean nothing the next. We watch this play out with both sets of characters in both movies and it isn't any less heart wrenching.
Based on Anna Todd's popular novel, After seems to follow a fairly predictable tale of a young girl meeting a dangerous boy who opens up her world. If you wonder why anybody who enjoyed Marriage Story would enjoy this than you are only looking at the surface. Marriage Story, if you follow it, was very much about a woman meeting a man who opened up her world but would only allow her to grow so much in it. After looks at the character of Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) and the relationship she forms with Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). While their relationship doesn't go to the level that Charlie and Nicole's descends to in Marriage Story, we certainly see what the initial spark between the characters was. Ultimately, After shows Tessa having an awakening through her relationship with Hardin Scott. This film is layered, has nuance, and it truly has a kinship with Marriage Story. Will you feel the same way about it as that Oscar nominated Netflix Original? Like the character of Tessa, that depends on how open you are to the experience.
The Ugly Truth (2019)
Of all the movies mentioned on this list, The Ugly Truth has got to be the most cookie cutter in terms of content. It stars Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl as two opposites who somehow attract one another in the milieu of the news world. So how does this film compare with a movie like Marriage Story which seems to come from another planet? Well, not every relationship movie can be as rich, layered, and as filled with captivating performances in Marriage Story. And why would we want them to be? What is needed after viewing that Netflix Original is something a tad lighter, and The Ugly Truth provides the perfect bit of softness. It is fun, frivolous, and the kind of movie that will probably make you forget your own relationship woes. Netflix has a way of providing the perfect mix of content. Of matching what is needed vs. what is wanted to create a virtual yin and yang of a streaming experience. Marriage Story will more than put you in the mood for this film.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Marriage Story is a very adult film which is why The Spectacular Now works so seamlessly as a counterpart. If you loved (or even enjoyed) Marriage Story, chances are that The Spectacular Now will work for you. This tale of a partying senior (Miles Teller) who has his "in the now" life changed when he meets a more strait-laced female (Shailene Woodley), might seem like the stuff of 1990s, indie film, The Brothers McMullen lore. Then you watch The Spectacular Now and it's hard not to be taken by its earnest storytelling and brutal relationship dynamics. Okay, it's not exactly on the same level as Marriage Story. However, there is a brutal nature to the way that Sutter (Teller) conducts himself. He is completely headed downhill when this movie starts and it's only the character of Aimee (Woodley) who can redeem him. Brie Larson is also on hand as an old flame whose treatment of Sutter, only adds more harshness to the proceedings.
The Notebook (2004)
Nick Cassavetes, son of John, directed this beloved film that co-stars his mother and probably would've co-starred his late father as well. This movie is hung on Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as two people that are meant to be together but ultimately have many things get in their way. Again, this doesn't seem like it would in any way play to the fans of Marriage Story. The reality is that people that have screened Marriage Story have probably already seen The Notebook. If that's the case then they know that The Notebook, even though its been penned by Nicholas Sparks (whose schmaltz factor always seems to appear in the movies based on his books), is no Harlequin Romance. Rather it is a deeply layered love story about everything it takes to not only get together with the right person, but to sustain that relationship over the long term. They couldn't make it work in Marriage Story, The Notebook is a solid counterpoint that shows how, against all odds, sometimes you really don't have any choice.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
Given that Noah Baumbach directed Marriage Story and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), it only seemed fitting to include this film on this list. Sure, the subject matter is different, but the strains of what it means to be "related" to people is ever present. Marriage Story looks at two people having to accept that something they've tried to create isn't going to work. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) looks at how we deal with our family. How at some point we need to take stock of our parent's lives and see how who they were is imprinted on us. For many, the effects of this process is gut wrenching. The marks left over from the past never really leave us. At the same time, we have to live with them as they are a part of who we are. Charlie and Nicole in Marriage Story have become different people, but they will forever have a common bond in the child they created. They, like many in families, have to work together because they don't want their issues clouding their children's lives. Sadly, this is inevitable and both films show the effects of this in all its brutal truth. If you loved Marriage Story, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is mandatory viewing.