‘Malcolm & Marie’ Summary & Analysis – Decimating Stereotypes


Love, passion, enchantment, romance has more than often been the core emotions around which a majority of films are made every year throughout the world. In every other film, we see a girl and boy falling in love and the complications around their relationships. But a very few of these are able to leave a lasting impact. This article will not only try to appreciate and analyze Malcolm & Marie but also try to solve the mystery behind why romance has to be a necessary ingredient in almost every other film and most importantly why such films fail miserably to leave sort of impact or move you in ways that you become a different human when you walk out of that cinema hall.

‘Malcolm & Marie’ Summary

As a cinema enthusiast, I really Laude when filmmakers and screenwriters take the unexpected route. Generally, the screenplay moves through events and situations. But in Malcolm & Marie, there are no such events but mere thoughts that keep on getting peeled, layer by layer, and exposing old wounds that never got a chance to be healed properly. Malcolm (John David Washington) comes back home after the premiere of his film, Imani, with his wife Marie (Zendaya). He is in a mood for celebration. At last, his work has seen the light of day and is not only being appreciated but creating waves, making him the next big thing to look out for. But Marie has something totally different going on in her mind. She doesn’t reciprocate his enthusiasm. She tells him that he didn’t thank her in his speech. But the film is not here to just address such a trivial matter. The stream of discontentment runs much deeper than this. It goes beyond the fickle emotions of jealousy or insecurity.


Malcolm and Marie is a refreshing take on the complications experienced by a couple. Just like our characters, we tend to stereotype these complications. There is a lack of inventiveness when thinking about the mere possibilities of the equation between a couple. Firstly we stereotype our characters who respond to only a fixed structure. Either one of them is indulging in infidelity or it is the staple model of the society being against the love birds. I would take the liberty to say that the complications showed always operate within the ambit of naivety.

The film, Malcolm & Marie decimates this structure and starts exploring deeper waters. The film is not dealing with extremities. It revolves around the fine line of prudence. The actions and the reactions resonate with a life-like quality. It feels like a first-hand assessment of things rather than dwelling in a superfluous, made up, reality.


Every time the ship doesn’t have to sink. That has already happened once and there are other viewpoints that need to be entertained. But we are part of a world where our biggest sin is stereotyping. We don’t even flinch before falling into the trap even as artists. Conflict can arise even when a partner thinks that he or she is being taken for granted in the relationship. Conflicts can arise when a partner thinks that he or she didn’t sign up for this. There might nothing be wrong per se but it’s just that you are in no mood for it. More than anything conflict can arise out of expectations.

Malcolm’s film is inspired by Marie’s life. It is an inevitable fact from which Malcolm has learned to run away. It wasn’t like this before but somewhere over the period of time Malcolm convinced himself that it is his sheer originality that accounts for the script of this film. They started out as a team. Marie was a recovering drug addict and Malcolm helped her get out of it. And when Malcolm needed it, Marie was standing there with him always. But over a period of time, it became a selfish endeavor. Malcolm forgot about those hurdles that they overcame together. His actions shook those very foundations on which they stood. It was never about a speech but a change in perspective in regards to how you feel about your partner. You stop paying attention to the details. You stop noticing them the way you used to. And by noticing I do not mean only sexually. Things, moments, memories, everything becomes repetitive and you stop being curious. The relationship becomes like a stale apple that just lies in your fruit basket, beneath all the fresh ones. It is neither so stale that you can throw it nor so fresh that you can give preference to it over the fresh ones.

The Drive Of A Filmmaker

The film also addresses this very important yet misconstrued notion about artists.

Sometimes a filmmaker makes a film because he wants to keep making films. It is as simple and complicated as that. The film and the content do not necessarily tell you about the man himself. If someone is making a film on social issues then it does not necessarily mean that he likes being woke and aware. Maybe he wants it or maybe couldn’t care less about it and is making it only because it is in vogue and earns him good profit which maybe he can put to credible use. It is not about whether you see yourself in the character or you resonate with it. Sometimes it is just about a perspective you take. There is a possibility that even you might not agree to it but nonetheless, you take it for various reasons.

As the film says there is no use talking about those 600 million possibilities that a filmmaker doesn’t take but about that one which he does.

Content-Driven Films

Malcolm says “the film should have a heart and some electricity.” This is what content means. Content doesn’t mean that the film should have a social message.

That’s the most amount of harm you can do to the freedom of expression when you curb it merely to be a messenger. The film is about life. And there can be infinite possibilities of expressing life. There is no fixed parameter. Every individual is different, every ideology is different. There is no correct or wrong way. One film comes and it sets the trend. Then for a decade, we operate on that trend. Our aim as creators should be to decimate and pierce through that trend in the search for a new perspective. The hunt should never stop.

We should learn to appreciate diversity. I think it is the need of the hour.

The “What Ifs”

If there could be any fuel on which a relationship could run smoothly then it would be the existence of a “what if” in the relationship. It’s proof of the fact that you are alive and seeing and noticing things. It’s proof that you are not taking things for granted. What if she is having an affair, what if she stops liking me, what if she finds someone better than me. It means that you value something and you care to put in thought towards it.

This is what Marie feels is missing from their relationship. Malcolm doesn’t get jealous when he sees her hanging out with other guys because he takes her for granted, and knows that she won’t go anywhere. He needs her. And that need has surpassed the emotions of love and attention. He doesn’t even apprehend the little things she does going out of the way. She is not asking for any remunerations. She is not saying that she is doing it as a favor. What she needs is a mere acknowledgment, a simple nod that he did notice that. That’s all she desires.

Streaming on Netflix, Malcolm & Marie, directed and written by Sam Levinson is a must-watch for its sincerity and authenticity. You might have a different sensibility and you have the right to but then try to decipher the sensibility of the filmmaker and I am sure you will have a great watch.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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