Married Life

Ira Sachs

BY Travis Mackenzie HooverPublished Mar 21, 2008

Ira Sachs’s stolid relationship drama marks a step back in his career — compared to the lovely Forty Shades of Blue, it’s a little too obvious and lacking in shading. Still, it’s not bad, and you won’t be too put out if you come across it one night on cable.

It’s the late ’40s, and solid husband/provider Chris Cooper has come to the conclusion that he’d rather be with mistress Rachel McAdams than wife Patricia Clarkson. So our man comes up with the only humane solution to his wife’s imminent betrayal: he will kill his spouse so as to spare her loneliness and embarrassment. Of course, that isn’t the only ridiculous assumption he comes up with. As it turns out, his wife is far less attached to him than one might assume, and his friend and co-worker Pierce Brosnan has secret designs on the mistress, making Cooper’s self-centred reading of the situation seem faintly presumptive.

People do not know other people in this movie, and people are hiding plenty, which might have made for a more interesting experience were the direction not determined to take things at face value. Instead of a mise-en-scène that heightens the sense of deception and misunderstanding, the film blandly reiterates the period decor and 40 shades of brown in the production design.

But if the film doesn’t set the world on fire as craft it still gently makes its case for making peace with the imperfection of relationships and understands that life not turning out as planned isn’t the end of the world. Given the histrionics with which such situations are normally treated, the quiet approach of Married Life is refreshing enough to make up for its visual weaknesses.

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