All I wanted was a 'Thank you'!

15 February 2021

This highly anticipated movie had many of us eager fans wondering how it got the green light, with both Covid restrictions and social distancing. Malcolm and Marie is a drama-filled, intimate black and white movie starring Zendaya Coleman (Euphoria) and John David Washington (Tenet). It did not disappoint, with its effortless acting and powerful artistic direction.

The story is set in a contemporary era, shot in one location – a secluded home – with intimate moments behind closed doors between a couple. It was written and directed by Sam Levinson, the genius behind Euphoria and no stranger to working with Zendaya. 

The movie starts with a car ride home with Malcom (John David Washington) on cloud nine, due to the premier of a film that he had written and directed. But on entering their house, Marie (Zendaya Coleman) seems unbothered, with a passive attitude towards his success. 

Malcolm gives the impression that Marie may be jealous of his success, that perhaps because she isn’t part of his ‘world of film’ she cannot possibly appreciate it. However, this runs deeper for Marie. As the narrative unfolds, we find out that she was an actress, and that she believes his movie is about her life. To add insult to injury, he forgot to thank her in his speech.   

Malcolm is in denial of this idea (which is evident through his narcissistic behaviour), and rejects this notion, annihilating her through his brutal words. He demystifies her thoughts by comparing her to his past loves, to prove that the movie is an amalgamation of all his past affairs and not just one with her. This causes an uproar of monstrous emotions and argument between the two. Marie wants a simple ‘thank you’, and Malcolm wants to be acknowledged for his hard work. Their argument deepens when a critic’s review of the film is released. 

This paring takes us back to the classic idea of attachment styles and how our early experiences in life can affect us in our current adult romantic relationships. Due to either an ‘unreliable’ or ‘non-existent’ parental relationship, it is clear both Malcolm and Marie did not form a strong secure attachment (one of closeness, trust, empathy, responding appropriately etc.), which has ultimately impacted their emotional/behavioural patterns with each other.

Through it all this dysfunctional, chaos-loving, seemingly rational pair keep finding ways to amuse, offend, encourage, sit with and love one another throughout the ugly truths. However, we end on them competitively rehashing painful old wounds and at an ultimate crossroads of what they both should do next.

The movie leaves us wondering about the fine line between love and hate, and how far is too far before we throw in the towel. 

Reviewed by Dr Drusilla Joseph Bsc (hons), CPsychol, Counselling Psychologist at EPUT, (NHS)

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