The opening scenes from Scenes From A Marriage take place outside the story, seeing the actors arrive to set and all of the Covid-19 precautions taken. We see Jessica Chastain sit down, switch out her wedding rings for her characters, and suddenly a silence and different person overtake her. She becomes her character. She is no longer Jessica, but becomes Mira, a woman with a seemingly perfect like but so many layers and such intense complication.
Scenes From A Marriage is a series of conversations that the characters have where every word, every movement, everything matters. It moves from place to place effortlessly, while drawing you in to the story. Maybe it’s just that it’s Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac. Maybe it’s that I am always interested in the insight that a show can give.
While we’ve all seen that red carpet video noting the chemistry between Chastain and Isaac’s – it transforms to the screen in a different way. Yes, that chemistry is definitely still there as the two were meant to star together. They play off each other in a way that few can. It’s a beautiful thing to watch as it’s very rare.
Chastain and Isaac play Mira and Jonathan, a couple at the beginning of their dissolution. Their disconnect is evident and both fall quickly into a routine of not expressing themselves, being awkward about telling their truths, and communication is less than up to par. But all marriages go through their ups and downs – that’s evident.
Only it’s a different thing when you watch it on a show and it’s as if you’re peaking in on real people. Chastain and Isaac are so believable as Mira and Jonathan that you feel like this is a real couple, real life, and the most intimate moments of their life as there to tear apart.
The Affair creator Hagai Levi adapted the Swedish version of the show from Ingrid Bergman and that’s a lot to take on. The shows confusing and slow moments make you realize that it’s a tall order to take on a show that is notorious. Maybe not all shows are meant to be remade or adapted, even with such star power as Chastain and Isaac.
The show has been updated for the times. Mira and Jonathan are in a nice house, with a cute kid and what I can imagine are magazines, text books, and anything that furthers education. The two are wrapped up in the monotony of life versus actually living. They are existing. The two are taking interview the couple for her work on gender norms and monogamy and you see that Jonathan is more into it than she is. She’s put off.
I have to wonder if the choices that are made in the way it is shot are to make us feel as though we were active participants in their lives. It quickly becomes clear that Mia and Jonathan need active participants in their lives, because what they lack is participation in their own lives. Jonathan sees marriage as an arrangement, a way to have kids and feel secure. Mira wants more. But they don’t even know how to acknowledge it.
The two have to laugh when they are questioned on the idea of sleeping with others. It’s obvious to everyone that they barely sleep with each other. Only, you soon realize that the two do, as Mira announces that she is pregnant. You also in that moment realize what an asshole that Jonathan is as his response is one that would result in me punching him in the throat.
The topic of abortion is very relevant to the world today, but the way that he insinuates and then actually asks if she missed her pills because subconsciously she was trying to fulfill her dreams of having two kids – well that happens to be a point in the show where you want to scream, “YOU ARE NOT TRAPPED MOFO.”
Jonathan’s reactions to Mira and his inability to be supportive makes me hate him on a level that I didn’t know I could. I mean I see the face of Oscar Isaac’s but I feel a man that is cold and distant and all I can think is, RUN MIRA.
But the two agree not to have an abortion, but things happen and we find them at the doctors office a week later doing just that. He doesn’t want the abortion – I think. To be honest, I am not sure because the man gives no clue as to how he feels. She clearly doesn’t know what she wants, as she’s making every attempt to comfort him when she’s the one who clearly needs comfort. Only the both of them are more comfortable staying stagnant. There is comfort in that for them.
Scenes From A Marriage doesn’t make me fall in love with it (despite my love for the leading actors) but it makes me interested. It draws me into paying attention to the details, as everything matters. Every facial expression is important, every movement, every breathe. And then every lack of one at crucial moments matters too.
Scenes From A Marriage airs on HBO.