Words: Giulia Lombardo
One of the most anticipated films (especially for Zendaya lovers like me) released on February 5 this year on Netflix, is ‘Malcolm & Marie’, a feature film written and directed by Sam Levinson. Filmed all in black and white and in secret during the Covid-19 pandemic, it stands as the first “lockdown movie”, and it leaves the audience with mixed emotions.
Alongside John David Washington, the movie beings with Malcolm and Marie returning in the middle of the night to their villa in Carmel, California. He – black suit and white shirt – is an explosion of energy; he just presented his new film and the reaction of the public and press was exceptional. She – a long silver dress – looks bored and dry while preparing her partner a plate of mac & cheese. Malcolm forgot to thank her during his speech at the movie premiere: and it is from this contrast that our story will begin, with the chaos that will detonate an anger and resentment bomb destined to light their sleepless night. The two will start a strong fight revealing facts and truths that will put in trouble their relationship, making peace and renewing the fight several times, passing to increasingly heavy tones. ‘Malcolm & Marie’ then is actually the story of a quarrel and the breaking down of all the barriers of their love relationship, touching very heavy and personal themes for the two protagonists.
They talk, they scream, they kiss, they fight, they make up. And then again, they fight, they cry, they laugh, they confide. All in the span of a night that could set them apart forever. Sam Levinson sprints arrows in favour of one or the other point of view in a continuous roar of accusations interrupted by brackets of intimacy in which the couple lays down their weapons. But ‘Malcolm & Marie’ is also a story about the Hollywood industry, an amused and fierce portrait of film critics and a reflection on race.
«Not everything I do is political just because I’m black»
The photography goes very well with the mood that this production wants to convey, also thanks to the black and white that gives that vintage/romantic touch to the film. The story, even if it does not convince me fully, treats the issues it analyzes in a very elegant way, although it seems to use them as an outline and just as an excuse for the quarrel between Malcolm and Marie, helping with the claustrophobic vibe and the frustration conveyed by the heavy arguing sorrounding the whole movie. The topics covered, however, are all very interesting and touch us closely, going from racism in the cinema to drugs and self harm and destruction.
Playing in the background to their monologues and silences, there is an excellent soundtrack edited by Labrinth and ‘Euphoria’s’ music supervisor, Jen Malone. It’s a soundtrack that helps us to breathe in some claustrophobic moments of this film, dampening the dramatic tones and relaxing the atmosphere with the classics of jazz or with the soul reassuring songs like that of Cleo Sol with Little Simz. The two protagonists really use music as their prop, and really use it as if it was another character speaking, saying his lines.
Zendaya and John David Washington modulate perfectly the emotions of their characters: they’re electric, passionate, desperate, pissed off, excited, angry. Two charismatic characters, sometimes unbearable and, a moment later, defenseless, protagonists of an intense film that reflects on that very thin line that separates love and need, feeling and habit and on the link between artistic creation and relationship. In a story like that of ‘Malcolm & Marie’, the viewer must feel something else, must perceive that something higher is at stake, must understand the metaphysical importance of the story; otherwise, it is only observing the perfect technical sector and the interpretation of two great interpreters.