TEXT: Alisa Tayozhnaya, author of the telegram channel "See Once"
Sundance TV showed in May Stephen Frears' British miniseries "Marriage", directed by the famous British writer Nick Hornby, who invented "Hi-Fi", "My Boy" and "The Long Fall". There are only 10 episodes of 10 minutes in the series: every week before meeting with the family therapist, Tom and Louise talk about painful things in a cafe, discussing the reasons for the breakup and ways to save a not very happy marriage. Especially for Russian-speaking viewers on June 15 at "KinoPoisk" the premiere of the series will take place in the voice acting of a real married couple of famous comedians - Tatiana Lazareva and Mikhail Shats. We analyze what new "Family Marriage" tells about a crisis in relationships and why a realistic, witty series about a breakup is something that we have been lacking for so long.
ATTENTION: the text contains spoilers.
Tom and Louise, a charming couple in their forties, sit down in a bright British pub during the day when no one comes up with a drink. Louise (Rosamund Pike) always gets white wine, Tom (Chris O'Dowd) gets a pint of London Pride. The choice of alcohol is the first detail that reflects their differences in outlook on themselves and life. Louise is a collected, drawn in line, minimalist in clothes and restrained in facial expressions, a British lady who is used to holding her face. Tom is a relaxed Irishman who doesn't need to rush anywhere before or after his scheduled session. Ever since he stopped being a music critic, showing up on time with a family therapist seems to be his only one hundred percent duty.
The session lasts exactly one hour every week. Louise and Tom sit down for literally 10 minutes to discuss what they will talk with the specialist, and watch the upset and enthusiastic couples leave the office with hope or wringing their hands. Both understand that they can equally find themselves in one or the other mood in an hour. At first, they do not even know whether it was worth signing up for a 10-week initial therapeutic stage: a mediator in negotiations, of course, is needed, but claims and jokes are still looping around two sick topics along a trajectory of infinity. And even the presence of children who remain behind the scenes in "Family Marriage" does not in any way affect the primary desire to leave. It does not occur to them to live together for the sake of children; they would like to live for each other and faith in a common good outcome. Saving a marriage is not an end in itself, it is more important to figure out why it is worth saving and how much both are ready for it.
A sore subject for Tom is his wife's repeated betrayal: she slept with the same person four times after years of relationship. A sore subject for Louise - for the past few years she felt unwanted, rejected, uninteresting, while Tom was busy with questions of his own world outlook. The general boredom and lack of spontaneous, light, joyful sex humiliated, made their marriage incomplete: "We were both in prison in terms of sex." From time to time it seems to them that passion can be found - somewhere at the bottom of the bag, because you just haven’t bumped into it with your eyes for a long time: “Passion can be lost like keys or a pen”.
"Family marriage" is minimalistic and built only on long dialogues between the two main characters. We don’t see or hear the therapist, we don’t find the quarrels of the spouses on the common couch, we don’t know the questions that are asked to Tom and Louise so that they come closer, hit and repel each other. And like any film built exclusively on the acting of two people in an enclosed space, "Family Marriage" takes out of the brackets all that is superfluous that all these years distracted the heroes from staring at each other, from a conversation that was long overdue to happen, but which so difficult that it must be stretched out in time. “Marriage is like a computer: you take it apart to find out what’s broken, and then you sit surrounded by bolts,” Tom jokes about the daunting task that he and Louise took upon themselves: to act intuitively in a relationship, with a high probability that the broken You can't get a family together, even if you get to the bottom of the root cause.There are too many parts, it seems, without an engineering mind and assembly instructions, you can't figure it out - but who will give it?
The main way of communication between Louise and Tom is black humor and mutual jabs, which sometimes help to relieve tension, sometimes interfere with approaching the main thing. "When was the last time we spoke without sarcasm?" - a rhetorical question: if everything is going to hell and you have no idea what to do, joking it is the easiest way not to cry in front of everyone. But what is fundamentally important for "Family Marriage" - despite the thorns of abandoned phrases, both characters retain their dignity and do not turn a verbal duel into nasty squabbles. Toxicity is inherent in any quarrel, and it is easier for a person whom you have known for a long time to say something painful, to choose such a wording that makes him feel uncomfortable. But mutual revenge is not the goal of their meetings: during therapy, Tom and Louise will try to find solutions, which is evident from the dynamics of their communication, which goes from political jokes to fragile feelings.
At the beginning of the series, Louise and Tom scolds about how their marriage is painfully similar to the Brexit situation that divided the United Kingdom (Hornby and Frears, both British, survived this plague of public discussion on their own), but in the end they wonder why and came to the therapist: "Why do people so rarely say that they love each other?" Tom will either be serious or jokingly frightened by a female psychotherapist, because he will in advance assign her feminist views and, as it seems to him, a corresponding bias in the conduct of sessions. From time to time, both will playfully devalue each other's hobbies. Tom is indignant at how much you can read about the murders of the Scandinavians at night. Louise compares Tom to adults of his generation: firstly, they don't live in a squat, and secondly, they don't play hip-hop in the bathroom, and they don't swear at the X-box yet. Seriousness and infantilism are fighting in each of us - Hornby knows how to verbalize this better than most.
Any frank conversation about a not very happy couple, where both people are definitely not indifferent, but constantly question the status of the relationship, are “Scenes from Married Life” retold in a new way. In Joe Swanberg's series "Easy", the author for three seasons observes a similar couple like Tom and Louise: even their challenges coincide - the recently launched "frivolous" career of one stumbles upon an understanding of the stability of the other. Sexual frustration also plays a decisive role, and "free love" also intervenes. In "Easy" we see fragments of sessions with a family therapist, and in "Family Marriage" - only two people who make most of the movement towards each other with a little push from the side. The series of Hornby and Frears, therefore, is not about how to get a couple out of the crisis, but about the fact that the desire for this (and not even the passion that can really be lost as keys) is almost more valuable than a successful result.