Netflix’s ‘Malcolm and Marie’ proves love is not always a fairytale

One of Netflix’s latest films, ‘Malcolm and Marie,’ gives a fantasy-shattering viewpoint into the dynamics of love.



Zendaya and John David Washington star in one of Netflix’s latest hits, ‘Malcolm and Marie’.

Ansley Morris, Senior Writer

In just about any romantic movie you watch on the silver screen, you’ll see all the amazing parts of what it’s like to be in love. There are walks along the beach, an abundance of flowers and gifts, gushing love letters, and everything else that’s good about love. The only aspects of love that seem to be shown in movies are the happy, picture-perfect ones.

But, as you get older, you realize that relationships aren’t a constant fairy tale. There are fights, arguments, miscommunications– periods of time where you may feel like giving up. That reality is exactly what Netflix’s recent film, Malcolm and Marie, shows.

Zendaya and John David Washington, who both star in the movie, portray a couple who has just gotten home from Malcolm’s big movie premiere. The entire film displays a raw, unfiltered view into relationships, downsides and all.  They fight, they yell, they attack each other’s personal character, they make-up, and then do it all over again.

With productions like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or really any Hallmark movie ever created, the film industry has led us to believe that these fights, arguments, and miscommunications are purely toxic and unhealthy.  But are they?  Or are they, in reality, in some way normal? While Malcolm and Marie may take insulting one another to the extreme, moments like these in a relationship (some of them in the film, at least) can be normal. When there’s that much love, there’s passion, and passion brings heightened emotions. So while a couple may be loving each other intensely, on the bad days, it can be equally as intense.

Nobody wants to feel the way this film makes you feel. You feel their pain in every cry of frustration, in the tears running down their faces, and in the passion behind their words. Creating the opposite effect is why romance movies typically only show you the parts of love that make you feel happy and emotionally boosted. But, again, that’s not all love is. Love has many sides. We have to be able to feel what this film entails. By that, I mean we have to be able to be okay with the bad days and arguments in a relationship. Being able to push past the bad days together is what makes a relationship that much stronger.

There are different stages in every relationship, beyond just the evolution of going from dating, to engaged, to married, to building a family. There are “emotional phases” that every relationship goes through, according to a recent study, and researchers and neuroscientists have been diving deeper into the phases involved for a couple in love.

According to an article in Very Well Mind, which has been medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD, there are four standard phases in a relationship’s entirety. The first one is the Euphoric Stage, where your significant other is what your world revolves around as you’re falling in love. There’s a decrease in the activity in your prefrontal cortex which would usually allow you to see the negative things in someone’s character; instead, you’re quite literally looking at your partner through “rose-colored lenses.” This initial stage can last anywhere from six months to two years.

The next phase is the Early Attachment stage, according to the articles author Allison Abrams, a licensed psychotherapist. Here, the tint of the rose glasses begins to dim as the more evolved part of your brain takes more control (something called your “ventral pallidum”). This part of your brain is linked with attachment hormones that create more dependency on your partner. The initial excitement of the relationship has begun to die down and you’re now accepting this person as a more influential part of your life.

There may be some small disputes or disagreements in this stage, but overall, you’re still under the slight influence of those rose-colored lenses.

The third stage is when the complexity of a relationship begins to kick in. This is the Crisis Stage. Being able to survive this stage is really what makes or breaks a relationship. You’re going to fight a lot, go through life changes, possibly “feel like you’re drifting apart from each other,” and maybe even wonder if it’s all worth it anymore. For most healthy relationships, this period of time should come five or seven years down the line.

Just from watching their dynamic in the film, Malcolm and Marie most definitely seem to be in Crisis Stage as they’ve been together for a couple of years. Though they seem they’re at their breaking point, the love they have for each other holds them together despite the crisis they are facing.

The fourth and final stage is the Deep Attachment stage. If you’ve made it this far, you know and love your partner on a deeper level than you ever thought you could. You’ve seen all of their flaws and you still love them enough to know that being together is worth more than any fight or disagreement. More than anything, this phase brings a feeling of security.

The stages of a relationship are not always going to be pretty, but the performance that Zendaya and Washington give in the film shows the audience the worst parts of a relationship in a beautiful, attention-grabbing way.

Are Malcolm and Marie’s fights heart-wrenching to watch? Absolutely. Is their relationship toxic? Probably. But, is their relationship more realistic than the ones in the typical romance movie? Without a doubt.

We’re so used to seeing only the upside of relationships in movies about couples, so it’s no surprise that the scenes in Malcolm and Marie are so surprising to us. Instead of only giving viewers the positives with a negative or two thrown, this film brilliantly displays the good, bad, and ugly.

Love is not just happiness and cheesy pick-up lines. Love has many sides.  Love is messy, passionate, and sometimes painful. Malcolm and Marie gives us a realistic view into the parts of love that we may not desire, but which may be inevitable.