Married Life is a film that deserves a wide audience, yet is one of those remarkable films that no matter how hard you try it feels as though you cannot fully describe the tale it tells. At once a dark comedy, film noir, and cautionary tale Married Life defies definition and gracefully transcends the genres from which it borrows due to the talents of writer & director Ira Sachs, writer Oren Moverman & the talented cast.
Originally uploaded by Legendary Classic
Originally uploaded by Legendary Classic
At its heart Married Life addresses two primary themes: the changes imposed upon us by our environment, and how well do we know the people we love. These themes are woven into the film with the for once artfully executed device of a first person narrator, one of the major players in the story, Richard played by Pierce Brosnan. Richard looks back on the event after it has happened and uses his current detachment from the situation to keep a certain levity about it, and calmly relate it to the audience.
The world Married Life takes place in is one that has recently experienced World War II and is still feeling the results of the war, though is trying its best to ignore those circumstances; this is where our first theme of changes our environment force upon us comes into play in a very key way through Rachel McAdams award worthy performance as young war widow Kay. Kay is the heart of the films disjointed love triangles; she is caught between Harry (Chris Cooper) and Richard who are both intent on making Kay enjoy life like the young beautiful woman she is; Kay however, pretends to enjoy the attention but the mere reference of her deceased husband sends Kay into a more emotional state than either suitor can conjure on his own flirtations. The attention of these men is relished by Kay because they offer the companionship she no longer has.
Our second victim or his environment is Harry; though he is the opposite of his mistress Kay. While Kay would have loved to remain happily married to her husband, Harry longs for escape from a marriage he finds confining because he feels that his wife’s desire for physical intimacy is not the “real” love he so craves. He longs for what he perceives to be true intimacy, the fruits of his relationship with Kay.
Richard, our jovial narrator is a victim of his environment as well though he is the quickest to admit it. The instant his best friend Harry reveals his desire to leave his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) he introduces Richard to Kay and instantly Richard is insanely jealous of Harry’s having Kay. Richard becomes the victim of his circumstances because he is trapped because of his feelings for Kay and his loyalty to two of his best friends in Harry and Pat.
Not to be overlooked is Harry’s wife Pat. Pat knows Harry no longer loves her and that she is in love with their friend John, but she traps herself in the marriage by refusing to believe that Harry cannot survive without her and she is unwilling to have him live a life of shame if she were to leave him.
At the end of the film Richard as narrator tells the audience the films key point: ‘how well do you really know they person that lies next to you?” This theme is driven home as each character is put through the wringer emotionally as they commit what they consider to be unavoidable but horrific sins against the people they love to drive this point home. Durring the course of the film Richard betrays Harry by pursing Kay & lies to Pat to get her to hide her affair from Harry; Kay allows Harry to cheat on his wife as she cheats on Harry; Pat has an affair with a family friend while trying to convince Harry that she is a devoted wife; Harry cheats on his wife with Kay, and hatches a plot to murder his wife so that she can be free of the shame and turmoil that would ensue if he left her for Kay.
This films is best described as a cross between Double Indemnity & American Beauty; it is a film that twists, provides laughs and entangles us in its suspense; Married Life is a film that is intended to portray the tangled web within which we all live our lives, and the lengths in which we will go to achieve a little thing called “happy”.
Director: Ira Sachs
Writer: Ira Sachs & Oren Moverman
Richard: Pierce Brosnan
Harry: Chris Cooper
Kay: Rachel McAdams
Pat: Patricia Clarkson
John: David Wenham