Movie Review: The Marriage (2017)

Now Playing

Bookmark and Share

Having traveled to the border in the hopes of finding the remains of her parents who've been missing since the Kosovo War, at the beginning of writer-director Blerta Zeqiri's The Marriage, Anita (Adriana Matoshi) and her fiancé Bekim (Alban Ukaj) leave once again without closure and without answers.

Discussing their future family on the drive home – which relatives, elders, and strangers are all too happy to advise them about since the pair is older than the average married couple – Anita tells Bekim that if she doesn't get any information soon, she'll have to accept that they're gone. Thinking ahead, she explains that she doesn't want their kids growing up feeling like they're waiting for someone they've never met.

And as it turns out, that's a pretty telling line in The Marriage, which has gone on to become Kosovo's official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards.

For shortly after Anita shares her own concerns about waiting for someone whom one's never met, she does just that as the couple runs into Nol (Genc Salihu), one of Bekim's closest friends who traded Kosovo for France but has since come back.

Perhaps surprising Bekim even more than Anita, when initially faced with the musician, Bekim looks as though he’s seeing a ghost of his own – missing and returned home after the war.

Quickly falling into an easy banter, the three drink and talk across two nights and it's only on the second night when she shows up halfway into the evening that Anita realizes there's some sort of intense, emotional rift between the two as Nol tells her that he's still pining for the love of his life.

Hoping to cheer the men up, be of some use, and undoubtedly strengthen the bond between not only herself and her beloved but also the man who seems to mean the most to him, the more Anita encourages Nol to fight like Romeo for his Juliet, the more we notice – long before she does – just how angry Beckim gets in response.

Bursting into an alcohol and subtext laced fight that threatens to drive a wedge between the couple as well as Beckim and his best friend, it’s at this point that the love triangle at the center of The Marriage starts to implode and each character asks themselves just what it is they really want when things aren't mapped out.

A bold, uncompromising, and potent work, while Zeqiri's film occasionally suffers from its share of too conveniently well-timed plot contrivances, her humanistic decision to avoid easy opportunities for cliché or turn Anita into a horrible third wheel helps set Marriage apart from thematically similar efforts.

Subtly illustrating the pressure she's under in a male-dominated society where a woman's worth comes from her role as a wife and mother, Zeqiri devotes as much energy to Anita as she does her male leads, fully endearing her to viewers before Nol and Bekim's storyline inevitably takes over.

A remarkably intimate, contemplative work that – through the aid of handheld cameras and tight shots – is given an intentionally hyper-realistic, fly-on-the-wall, cinema vérité feel, Zeqiri puts us in such close quarters with the film's characters to reinforce the idea that although they're technically protected by the law, LGBTQ individuals in Kosovo "closet" themselves behind closed doors in order to survive.

Reminiscent of the heartbreaking one-two punch of Todd Haynes's Carol and Far From Heaven as well as Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, The Marriage would make a superb double feature with Lee's second feature, The Wedding Banquet, which views the same basic premise through a comedic lens and features similarly lived-in, believable turns by its main trio.

Zeroing in on the collision of three people trying to plan for a future they're not quite ready to face in a society that currently doesn't offer many answers, in Sundance award-winning short filmmaker Blerta Zeqiri’s strong character-driven, feature-length debut, we discover that closure isn't something we're given, it's something we find along the way.

Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.