How Accurate Is Netflix’s ‘Marriage Story’?

While not a story about marriage, the Oscar-nominated film soberly captures the reality of family court
April 14, 2021 Updated: April 16, 2021

We all know someone that has gone through a divorce, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or possibly, the one reading this article. While divorce rates are dropping, meaning longer marriages in the United States, there are still millions of adults who have experienced a divorce.

With such statistics, it’s no surprise someone would make a movie showing what it is like for divorcing parents.

It’s the subject the movie nails: what it’s like when you first meet a family law attorney and how they make you feel, the process inside of the courtroom, and the responses one can expect. If I had any criticism, it might be the absence of “parental alienation,” the tactic we see time and time again in contentious divorce cases, where one parent uses the child as a weapon.

Charlie (a director) and Nicole (an actress) meet on the job, fall in love, get married, and have a kid. Sounds like a wonderful life, right? Well, not exactly. Nicole finds herself on the back burner, always in a support role to her husband. With dreams of her own and a flame not burning as hot as it once did, the couple finds themselves getting very distant and separation becoming more apparent. Although the couple is finding themselves on the verge of divorce, they are cordial toward each other and still getting along for the sake of their child.

Talk of divorce has surfaced between the two, with a promise to remain friends and keep lawyers out of the mix.

That is until one day when Nicole finds herself talking to a coworker who recommends a lawyer to her. At first, Nicole is hesitant, but the friend reassures Nicole that the lawyer, Nora, is amazing and will help her through every step of the way. Nicole meets with Nora, and right away, she is greeted by this compassionate lawyer who is ready to speak to her about all the problems she is facing.

“Rest assured, I will help see you through this. I’m here for you,” says every family law attorney ever. Nora is a listening ear for all of Nicole’s problems, as she kicks off her shoes and hops on the couch beside her new prospective client.

Afterward, Nicole sees her husband and, much to his surprise, serves him the newly drafted divorce papers.

“I thought we promised to leave lawyers out of this!” Charlie tells Nicole. Then, he asks, “What do you want me to do?”

“I suggest you get a lawyer,” Nicole replies.

Plan of Attack

At this point, everything changes.

Charlie hires a lawyer, who tells him he needs to be prepared to fight and be ready for what’s about to happen.

“I need $25,000 on retainer,” he tells Charlie as he lays out their plan of attack. The lawyer tells him how he can navigate the legal trouble about to head his way, with promises of a confident outcome. As the money dwindles and the case rolls on, Charlie is met with scenarios of settlement because his ex’s lawyer is “very good and there is no way you can win, Charlie.”

What we have here is the story that millions of parents have faced or are facing as they go through family law battles.

The mom, who initially wants to work things out and co-parent, meets with an attorney who tells her everything she can get and why she needs to go after her soon-to-be ex-husband. The dad meets with a lawyer who gives him high expectations, only to ask him to settle because the money is running out. Parents, who at one point could have co-parented in the best interest of the child, are now fighting with each other while the kids are left in the middle. Money that could have gone toward college funds or retirement is spent on these strangers who promise their clients the best results and fail to deliver.

In the courtroom, Charlie and Nicole sit beside their lawyers as each makes a case for their client. With each new statement, more severe accusations emerge from each side. Husband and wife sit idly by.

Epoch Times Photo
(Wilson Webb)
Epoch Times Photo
(Wilson Webb)

Talks of affairs, alcohol consumption, money, and where the kids are going to live are among the arguments presented. Because others are waiting for their cases to be heard, a continuation is prescribed, along with an evaluator to observe the behavior of the children. In the real world, when we hear the word “evaluator,” we cringe. The one word that comes to mind for anyone who has ever been through family court when an evaluator is presented is “money.”

Big Picture

Epoch Times Photo
Director Noah Baumbach guides viewers through an accurate inside look at what it means to get a divorce in the United States. (Wilson Webb)

Director Noah Baumbach guides viewers through an accurate inside look at what it means to get a divorce in the United States. The performances by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give an amazing depiction of two parents going through this very real nightmare. It isn’t hard to understand why “Marriage Story” was nominated for Best Picture.

Maybe you are, or maybe you’re not familiar with divorce. The film serves as a reminder that it should be about finding a way to meet the best interests of the children while continuing to communicate as amicably as possible with the other parent.

It doesn’t have to be a battle.

If you find yourself going through this, remember that was once a person you said “I love you” to and was close enough with that you created a life together. Do what’s necessary for your children, who need their parents now and forever.

“Marriage Story” is a reminder to all of us who have faced or are facing this most difficult process that working with your partner is about what is best for our children.