Malcolm & Marie ending explained: Beyond black and white

‘Malcolm and Marie’, directed by Sam Levinson, has released on Netflix. John David Washington and Zendaya play a passionate couple, who are the only characters in this black and white film.

Malcolm (Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) return home to their desolately located luxury cottage from the premiere of Malcolm’s debut film. The setting of the film is confined to the various rooms in their house, and occasionally steps into the yard right outside

Malcolm is a self-possessed artist who finds himself in full command of his art, i.e. cinema. Marie has given up what could be a tremendous acting career, for reasons best known to her.

In the premiere speech to his first film, Malcolm expresses gratitude to the various people of his life, who have had an influence on his art. He forgets, however, to thank his girlfriend Marie.

Soon after the couple enter home, they get into an argument about what the reason for the forgetting was. They shift from argument to reconciliation, from vengeful violence to passionate sensuality. The film explores the happenings of the hard day’s night and ends sometime when the next day’s sun rises.

Malcolm & Marie ending explained in detail:

Malcolm & Marie: The couple

Malcolm’s various moods are accompanied in the background by R&B music from the fifties and sixties. He impulsively brings up classic Hollywood films such as ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Gone with the Wind’, to assert where his influences lie. Marie displays a mirthful sensibility in the relationship. Her emotions are elucidated through R&B music, but from a much later era.

The dynamic couple dribble through moments of incessant love-making and those of endless fights. Beginning with Marie’s complaint about Malcolm refraining from mentioning her name in his speech, the arguments extend to Taylor, who is the lead actress in Malcolm’s film and an unnamed film-critic from LA Times, who Malcolm finds incapable of understanding cinema.

As the film concludes, Marie receives what she had always been looking for – gratitude. Neither justification, nor apology, but a word of thankfulness is what she desired from her lover, whom she so compassionately understood and accommodated with. Malcolm recognises her contributions, not just to the making of his film and its various titbits, but to the making of who he himself is.  

‘Imani’: Malcolm’s lovechild

As Malcolm had enunciated as a part of a heated monologue intended to belittle Marie, the lead character ‘Imani’, in Malcolm’s film of the same name is inspired by the various people and places from his life, that have stuck with him. His relationships with the myriad women from the past, and his encounters with them, have grown into his perception of Imani.

However, as the film concludes and the conflict unties, Malcolm admits that the most significant and conclusive part of ‘Imani’ is inspired by Marie. He tells her that the major theme in the film – the inescapability of guilt and shame, is a reflection on Marie’s life.

Marie’s authenticity

Throughout the night, Malcolm stands by his belief that ‘authenticity’ is not the most superlative element in cinema, and by the extension, any form of art. To him, it is ‘perspective’ that matters. At a certain point, Marie ask him why she wasn’t casted in Malcolm’s film in the lead role (which was given to Taylor).

After dwindling on various reasons such as her withdrawal from acting and his abstinence from supporting her, Malcolm concludes that Marie would have little to offer to the role apart from ‘authenticity’.

Marie pulls off an act, with a meat-knife in front of Malcolm, about having cheated on him and stolen from his mother, and about not regretting it one bit. When Malcolm is shaken, she drops the knife and confesses that it was an act to portray the importance of authenticity. Malcolm is convinced.

Leaving the house

The entire film takes place inside a house, with the characters shifting from the dining, through the bath-tub to the bed. The only exceptions to this, happen when Malcolm and Marie, in different instances storm out of the house, fully infuriated in their heated arguments.

As the film concludes, Malcolm thanks Marie, while lying on the bed with her, and she accepts his gratitude. They fall asleep, and the boundless is finally over. When Malcolm wakes up, he finds Marie outside in the yard, where he joins her.

The symbols denote that Malcolm and Marie have overcome the boundaries, that the house represents, and have gone out, only this time, happy and at peace with one another.

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