The very touching Netflix movie, Marriage Story, provides an unusually realistic depiction of divorce dynamics.
I particularly appreciate the portrayals of the spouses and their eight year-old son, reflecting the complexity of their conflicts and their ambivalences. Both spouses are decent people – and both have their foibles. They struggle with the tension between caring for themselves and the other, as often happens in real life.
The couple starts out with an agreement to handle their divorce without lawyers. Then a friend urges the wife to get a lawyer and they are off to the races. She gets a tough lawyer, which leads to the conflict to spiral out of control. The husband consults a high-priced lawyer who warns that, considering the wife’s lawyer’s approach, they can’t afford to be reasonable:
If we start from a place of reasonable and they start from a place of crazy, when we settle, we will be somewhere between reasonable and crazy. … Half of crazy is crazy.
The film includes extensive scenes with various lawyers, a mediator, a custody evaluator, and a judge in a courtroom. Although the professionals’ actions are problematic, they conscientiously attempt to fulfill their roles as they see them and the spouses ultimately are responsible for their decisions. In any case, they combine to produce a sad result as the whole extended family gets ensnared ever more deeply in a conflict they all want to avoid.
Mediation plays a small role in the film and, although less than ideal, fortunately it is much better than the farcical scene from the movie, Wedding Crashers, and the mercifully short-lived TV sitcom, Fairly Legal, about an alleged mediator.
I am tempted to describe many fine touches in Marriage Story but I don’t want to provide any spoilers. I highly recommend it, as do critics and audiences.