Movies & TV

The Anatomy of a Turbulent Relationship: A Review of Scenes From A Marriage

The five-episode miniseries was inspired by a 70’s Swedish show.
IMAGE HBO
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In a world where the entertainment industry seems to churn out more reboots and remakes than actual original content, viewers may tend to overlook anything that seems revived. How can anyone bring anything new to something that’s already been done? Is there anything that can be achieved by revivals? One would have to look no further than Hagai Levi’s 2021 remake of Scenes From A Marriage for the answer.

Following the premise of the 1973 Swedish TV show, the 2021 miniseries revolves around the marriage of Jonathan and Mira, a the middle-aged couple being interviewed for a research study about their so-called successful marriage. As the series progresses, they try to grapple with what their marriage truly means to each other. 

Photo by HBO.

One of the series’ main plus points is the rawness of the premise. There’s something so visceral about the characters in the series. Of course, nothing less is to be expected from the series' main actors, award-winning actors Oscar Isaac (who plays Jonathan) and Jessica Chastain (who plays Mira). The last starred together in the 2014 crime film A Most Violent Year

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Jonathan is a Jewish man with a background in the academe. He has a very rational and ever-analyzing personality. Mira, meanwhile, is the more sensitive, reserved breadwinner of the family who works at a tech company. The characters are complete opposites, yet also complement one another in such a natural way. Their constant push and pull is quite easily the pillar of the entire story, something that leaves viewers wondering if they prefer the couple together or if they are better off apart, which is the big question in almost every troubled marriage.

Perhaps this could be attributed to the fact that Levi took care to make the characters more seamless and relatable compared to the Swedish original. He also switched the genders of the original characters, which is why Chastain’s character is the breadwinner while Isaac’s Jonathan is the stay-at-home father. Such a switch brings a more modern approach to the traditional roles in a marriage—no doubt, a fresh reframing of the original series.

The authenticity of the characters could also be attributed to the riveting dialogue. There’s a particular scene in the first episode where Jonathan and Mira have a conversation during a double date dinner with some friends—another married couple, except they happen to be polygamous. It started out as a light-hearted back and forth that eventually swells up into a heated argument that not only shows their friends’ complicated situation, but also brings up that uneasy awkwardness that happens when a fight breaks out during what is supposed to be a casual conversation.

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The conversations between Jonathan and Mira, some of which last for the better part of an hour, are drawn from organic emotions. Though some parts of the dialogue border on thoughts about psychology and even philosophy—thanks to Jonathan’s academic background—it doesn’t alienate the viewers because of how clearly written the ideas are. 

Photo by HBO.

There’s a noticeable minimalism that the show uses as well. Granted, this may have been due to the fact that this was filmed during a pandemic, but the fact that a huge part of the series revolves around the long, intimate talks between husband and wife gives it an almost theatrical feel. Majority of the show takes place in the couple’s house, and it is Jonathan and Mira who take up most of the screen time. Save for a few select scenes, this series could have, in another life, been staged as a play—and it would have still been pretty great. 

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Scenes From A Marriage is an emotional rollercoaster packed with the gut-wrenching realness of a relationship’s ups and downs. It is a remake, yes—but it manages to reframe a vintage story in the lens of a 21st century mindset while still keeping its roots of what a marriage is truly supposed to be about. In any relationship, both sides have room to change whether they intend to or not—it’s how we deal with these changes that decides whether or not it all becomes worth it in the end. Coupled with amazing performances and engaging dialogue, this series is a great watch for those looking for an emotionally charged ride.



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