Review: Marital Problems

Directed by Dia Taylor and written by Julian Barbor, on the eve of his eviction, Ian’s home becomes invaded by Clarke, an unscrupulous gardener who recounts the events of his failed marriage in an attempt to bring closure to Ian’s prior engagement that failed to go the distance. Starring: Nick Capper, Callum Gault, Aleis Duffy, Neil Goldsmith, Jonathan Hearns and Rachel Trainor.

At first glance, this film appears to be a more straightforward, buddy, banter-esque style comedy but as time goes on it reveals itself as more of a relationship drama with a comedic edge. However, the film moves at a fairly slow pace and takes quite a while to get to that full-fledged gear change from comedy to drama, which makes it stumble along the way. It’s a shame that the film doesn’t just throw all of its energy into one basket, splitting itself between the two feels like it was asking too much and results in an ironically non-committal atmosphere that you’re not sure what to do with.

It’s an issue that’s perpetuated by the flow of the writing, it doesn’t follow a smooth or strongly logical pattern, while the timeline is easy to follow, there’s a clumsy quality to the progression of the story. There are a number of aspects that don’t feel fleshed out enough, it moves around but doesn’t give you a sufficiently strong reason to invest in its story, its characters aren’t sympathetic and it has a nonchalance and self-pitying quality to its plot which needed that comedy to come through more strongly to work better. Surprisingly however, it’s main issue quite possibly may just be one simple choice in the creation of the story that removes sympathy from the equation entirely; having a 21-year old man dating an 18-year old woman before she’s even left high-school. It’s inherently creepy and fairly pathetic, it’s undoubtedly subjective but likely a large amount of people will draw issue with it, while a 3 year gap is very little in the scheme of things, if both people are over the age of 20, prior to that it’s highly problematic.

The performances on the other hand are solid, they do follow quite stereotypical characters but they all lean into it and the slightly cheesy or even insincere edge to them earlier on does fade away as the story progresses. Neil Goldsmith’s blend of casual chaos and lack of inhibition is surprisingly intriguing and it’s a shame his character begins to blend into the background as the film moves into its latter half.

Marital Problems can’t quite commit to its story, it lacks a strong driving force or central energy to bring everything together. The initial comedy edge would have helped the film if it had been held onto for its entirety but unfortunately it gets lost among the fray of its characters’ heartbreak. The story moves at too slow of a pace to reach what it’s aiming for and there’s too much that doesn’t feel entirely thought out to form a smoothly flowing progression. You can see what the end goal was here and what sort of film it wanted to be but it doesn’t quite create the personality or charisma to pull it off.

Verdict: ✯✯

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