3 out of 5
Created by: Stefan Golaszewski
covers season 1
Stefan Golaszewski is obsessed with the inherent and uncomfortably human humor found in our relationships. Him & Her took something of a sitcom approach to this, but there was also a clear dramatic bent, just from attempting to realistically suffer its characters through all their/our daily misunderstandings and whatnot. That show looked at 20somethings, and Mum then junped to after-the-fact – dating post-divorce or bereavement. Mum upped the naturalism quotient: lots of mumbled dialogue, lots of silence, but still an indercurrent of mirth.
Marriage is another step on that direction: comedy is reduced to moments inbetween, except for the indirect humor we can mine from people just acting like their strange-old selves – we are all pretty odd creatures – and Stefan allows his actors / scenes to stretch quiet out for as long as desired, and sometimes without “payoff:” as we fitfully pace, wondering whether or not to speak up, sometimes… we won’t. And while, chronologically in a relationship, Marriage’s long-term married couple played by Nicola Walker and Sean Bean would be inbetween Him & Her’s dating, and Mom’s divorcees, it’s also a logical step forward: it’s very much in the trenches of life, with established foibles guiding our day-to-day. It is thus the most “experimental” of Golaszewski’s TV outings, and while I’m not sure how much of the experiment pays off, it is also excruciatingly fascinating at points, with our actors allowed all the room needed to wholly inhabit their characters.
The “problem” with this experimentalism is that it still half exists as TV show with subplots: Emma (Walker) has an asshole boss at work that she’s also possibly attracted to; Ian (Bean) is struggling desperately with a job loss, and flits about his days without guidance; their adopted daughter (Chantelle Alle) is in the midst of a completely dysfunctional relationship, but has a tendency – learned from her folks – to not talk about it or confront it.
All of these things make complete thematic sense together, in the show’s study of ingrained habits, and the push and pull of spending so much time – decades! – with a significant other. But it doesn’t always come across on screen that synergistically; Golaszewski’s approach of letting conversations drift in and out naturally doesn’t always seem appropriate, and occasionally seems almost accidental, which is a close neighbor to… pointlessness.
This design eventually congeals into moments that try to explain how we got here, so we can then possibly reinterpret silences as moments of comfort instead of discomfort. But a structure like that can somewhat cheapen what we’ve otherwise seen – again, it hovers halfway between a documentary style, and more traditional television setups.
But then willingness to indulge in such “natural”ness is, given your patience with silence, also kind of thrilling: a true test of the actors, and a fascinating way to screw with our brains that’ve gotten used to different types of “reality” as depicted on TV.
Because Marriage does, occasionally, so closely mirror real life, perhaps it is fitting that it’s also rather imperfect.