Malcolm & Marie review: A drawn-out, well-acted relationship fight

Rating: 3.5/5

The filmmaking industry, like all other industries, was hit hard by the pandemic. Malcolm & Marie, in spite of all the hardships, is one of the first films to be written, directed and completed during the pandemic.


The suitably titled Malcolm & Marie, follows an up-and-coming egotistical filmmaker, Malcolm (John David Washington) and his underachieving girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya), after they return from the premier of Malcolm’s first and potentially critically acclaimed feature film.

Malcolm is ecstatic and wishes to celebrate with his girlfriend, Marie, who does not seem to share his enthusiasm. After repeatedly pressing Marie to explain the reason for her chagrin, Marie finally spills the beans and opens up a can of worms. 

What follows for the next 106 minutes is, essentially, one long end-of-the-relationship type fight between the couple.

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The film had just two cast members, John David Washington and Zendaya.

Zendaya is exceptional as Marie. She has to show a range of emotions as this unstable, troubled, talented woman. She is only loud when she absolutely needs to be.

The subtlety of her performance is what differentiates and makes her better than Washington’s Malcolm. With Malcolm & Marie, after already proving her acting prowess in Sam Levinson’s tv show, Euphoria, Zendaya, with this film, has established that she is more than ready for adult roles and is a force to be reckoned with.

John David Washington is inconsistent as Malcolm. Malcolm is a self-centred, narcissistic, loud and insecure director. Washington’s acting is quite physical and loud through the majority of the film and shows little restraint due to which his highest highs are not quite that high. It usually works for him, but many times it does not.


The most striking aspect of Malcolm & Marie is its visuals.

Sam Levinson, the writer and director of the film, chose to make the film black and white with heavy grain. The aesthetics are undeniably great. The black and white visuals also serve to keep the film solely focussed on the two characters.

Levinson is also able to extract an amazing performance from Zendaya.

The cinematography by Marcell Rév is absolutely stunning. Each and every camera movement, angle and shot is precise and motivated. The film has plenty of beautiful frames and smooth long takes. The acting and the camerawork are the primary driving forces of the film.

The content of the film itself covered a large variety of topics like critics, hypocrisy in Hollywood, liberal racism etc through its rants by the flawed and biased protagonists.

One of the most inspiring aspects of the film is its existence itself. It has been shot in one location, using two actors and 20 crew members during the peak of the pandemic. Sam Levinson has essentially made a romantic drama in the bottle film format.


Malcolm & Marie had quite a thin plot and often relied on the instability of both the lead characters to drive the conflict onwards.

The ups and downs in the film were far too frequent and were conveniently chalked up to how fickle the protagonists’ moods were.

Malcolm & Marie also fairly dragged in several scenes as the rants by Washington’s character grew ever longer and less relevant to the film. Especially the rants on the critics seemed more to do with Levinson’s frustrations vented through Malcolm’s character.

The ending of the film was fairly underwhelming.

Worth It?

Sam Levinson has a penchant for creating divisive films, Malcolm & Marie is no different.

Malcolm & Marie is a gorgeous looking film with strong performances by both the leads but is a hard watch due to the uneven pacing. It is, however, a must-watch for fans of romantic dramas.

Also Read: Firefly Lane review: Shoddy adaptation of Kristin Hannah’s bestseller