Netflix’s “Malcolm & Marie,” starring John David Washington (“Ballers”) and Zendaya Coleman (“Shake It Up”), released earlier this month. It showcases a young couple in love and toxicity as they navigate the ups and downs of their relationship and individual wins and failures.
The film begins with Malcolm, a filmmaker, on an emotional high as he returns home from the premiere of his latest film. He is confident that the critics will love it and finally see him as a powerhouse to be respected in Hollywood.
His girlfriend, Marie, however, is bothered, and eventually vocal, about Malcolm forgetting to thank her in his acknowledgments at the premiere.
Malcolm sees her as selfish and negative. She, in turn, sees him as forgetful and a fraud for not only failing to acknowledge her; but in part using her battle with drug addiction as the story of his film.
After a series of arguments and a dialogue that shows a relationship built around codependency and toxicity, you soon realize that the love between this couple is not enough to conquer their respective insecurities and demons.
The film, in black and white, is reminiscent of the simple settings used for many student films and plays recently formatted to film like “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Most of the film is set in Malcolm and Marie’s home or the yard surrounding it.
Shot in under two weeks during the height of the pandemic, both Washington and Coleman took a risk by continuing on with this film.
Interestingly, the controversy surrounding the film comes from the age gap between John, 36, and Zendaya, 24, which she addressed recently in a BuzzFeed interview.
“I’ve played a 16-year-old since I was 16,” she admits, “You have to remember people also grew up with me as a child…It’s like watching, I guess, your younger sibling — now they’re grown, and you’re not ready for it.
She continued, “It’s hard for people to wrap [their heads] around the idea that I am grown in real life, even though I do play a teenager on television still.” John, however, is unruffled by the age gap backlash, in a recent interview with Variety he states he “wasn’t concerned about it.”
Viewers can catch Malcolm & Marie on Netflix and in some independent or artistic theaters nationwide.