Academy Award Nominee Noah Baumbach’s new familial “dramedy” “Marriage Story” is yet another one of this year’s top Oscar contenders showcasing itself on Netflix. While this is far from a “date night movie,” making the occasion to experience it on the big screen will no doubt be a gratifying alternative. “Marriage Story” conveys itself in a polished 35mm film spectacle at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theater and will act as a preemptive obligation for film lovers auditing the course of this year’s Oscar race.

There are two sides to every story, as Baumbach unveils in this tenderly intimate and graciously ambivalent portrait of marital discord. When third parties venture into the subject of divorce, it becomes an inherent action to place blame and exclusively endorse one side of the argument. “Marriage Story” is far more concerned with exploring this dichotomy through a lens of impartiality. The screenplay, laced with caustic wit, cuts to the core of each character’s individual and comparative aspiration and identity. Each character’s viewpoints are thoroughly registered with remarkable attention to detail. We identify with their respective efforts and insecurities within the context of their own lives and that of the breakup. Neither are denounced as villains, as the combatants are illuminated with compassion and unadulterated humanism. This is a testament to the writer’s understanding of these characters. It is believed that the concept of the film was a result of Baumbach’s divorce to actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. The text is permeated with moments of levity and resonant insight.  The narrative subjects us to a purposefully exhaustive amount of intricacies regarding the influence of law. This component drives home the idea of divorce being an arduous and apprehensive process.

As a director, Baumbach crafts each scene in a wholly naturalistic way. This function serves to dismantle the “cinematic” illusion, and allow an effect of unfiltered realism — the film apexes at a culmination of raw emotion, rectified by two exceptional lead performances. Driver and Johansson are equally astonishing, exuding a vast emotional range channeled with subtlety and precision. The supporting cast is also phenomenal, as Laura Dern’s vivacious divorce attorney has gained the reputation as the top dog of this year’s Best Supporting Actress race.  It’s a masterclass in dramatic acting on par with some of the best ensemble pieces in recent memory.

We are presented with two intensely sympathetic points of view that are at points equally unsympathetic to each other’s emotional borders. This polarity serves as a thoroughly realized investigation into the bare essentials of controversy. We fail to hear the other person’s perspective due to the desperation of trying to be heard ourselves. It’s a paradox that is only realized when we decide to either compromise or agree to disagree. “Marriage Story” is the exploration of that subjectivity – in a tale of two decent people. Neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. It is simply burdened with two paths that do not mirror one another anymore. This is a film that allows us to reflect upon our own relationships and how our spouse must have felt in any given circumstance. Although the themes may be too heady for young adolescents, this feels like essential viewing for children of divorce, hampered by an unfounded designation of fault upon themselves. It’s a film that works on endless levels and exists in a league of its own within its subgenre.

Grade: A

By Sam Clark