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  • Alex First

Malcolm & Marie (MA) - 106 minutes

Fight for what you believe in. Fight for decency. Fight for being acknowledged for who you are and what you represent. In fact, bugger that. Just fight.


That is one, perhaps uncharitable, representation of Malcolm & Marie.


This black and white two hander focuses on an African American filmmaker and his live-in partner, a former drug addict.


It is 1am and they have just returned from the premiere screening of his new film.


Lambasted by critics for his past efforts – the “white” female LA Times critic in particular – this time is markedly different.


Malcolm (John David Washington – Tenet) has written and directed a film based largely on his girlfriend’s life.

Marie (Zandaya – Spiderman: Far from Home) was a 20-year-old junkie when they met a few years ago and he took her to rehab.


The resultant film is raw and authentic and is being hailed by all, although formal reviews have yet to drop.


Malcolm is triumphant, envisaging being seen as the next Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) or Barry Jenkins (Moonlight).


Marie, who was dressed spectacularly for the occasion, stays quiet for a while and turns her attention to making him macaroni and cheese.

But before long they are fighting.


It is over the fact that Malcolm thanked seemingly everyone in his speech to introduce the film ... everyone that is but Marie.


The venom associated with the disagreement is palpable.


It is the first of many fights between them that are the mainstay of the picture.


Both give as good as they get and their fighting is epic.


She mounts compelling arguments backing her contentions. She is vulnerable but strong.


He lands figurative blows, too, and can be mighty insensitive.


Then the next moment he is telling her how much he loves her.

She too loves him, in spite of what is going down.


During the wee small hours then, the pair trade barbs over him taking her for granted, his needs and lack of jealousy, him failing to cast her in the movie and him not understanding the value of “mystery”.


That is not to overlook his own ranting when the LA Times critic’s review does drop.


At an hour and three quarters, Malcolm & Marie is a long sit and mainly a film for purists.


By and large, I appreciated the offering, although I understand why it will frustrate quite a number.

Heavy on verbiage, I thought it could have been cut back, notwithstanding the fact that writer and director Sam Levinson has created a thoughtful, slice of life drama.


Such a move could have increased the film’s impact and reduced the risk of some patrons “switching off” or “tuning out”.


I dare say there’ll be those who see more than a little something of their own relationships – present and/or past – in Malcolm & Marie.


A musical number as the credits roll speaks of the fine line between love and hate.


Both John David Washington and Zendaya perform well, but I was particularly impressed by the latter.


In portraying Malcolm, Washington is loud and effusive – energetic and on the move.

Zendaya is more internalised and reflective in realising Marie.


She is able to channel her character’s insecurity in stages.


Her “thank you” monologue late in the piece is an undoubted highlight.


Malcolm & Marie may not be perfect, but it still leaves an indelible imprint.


Rated MA, it scores a 7 out of 10.


Malcolm & Marie is on Netflix and limited cinematic release.