Does “Scenes From a Marriage” accurately portray marriage or is it completely divorced from reality?

Does “Scenes From a Marriage” accurately portray marriage or is it completely divorced from reality?

Fun fact: we know quite a bit about divorce. We are particularly knowledgeable about family law cases in Washington state. And even if you don’t know what to ask a divorce lawyer but need to consult one, we can also tell you where to start with regarding your case.

Another fun fact: We can tell you whether a film or TV show about divorce is accurate (e.g., Kramer vs. Kramer) or bogus (e.g., Liar Liar). For example, we thought the drama Marriage Story has some pretty factual bits about a dissolving marriage but has fantastical sequences, too. We didn’t mind the histrionic depiction of property division in the ‘80s classic film, The War of the Roses.

There’s a recent worthy addition to the canon: the limited HBO series Scenes From a Marriage.

If you’re looking to consult a divorce attorney, you might want to consider adding “Scenes” to your watchlist

Scenes From a Marriage is a remake of the ‘70s TV series created by the late Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. If it’s marriage and divorce-themed entertainment you’re looking for, you could do worse than this remake. It follows the marriage and eventual divorce of the couple Jonathan (Oscar Isaac), a university professor, and Mira (Jessica Chastain), a corporate product manager.

The show is an impeccably acted, classy production, but it is not quite the towering achievement that the Bergman original was, which was said to have caused a spike in divorce rates in ‘70s Sweden. Nevertheless, the remake is worth a watch if only to learn what it has to say about marriage and divorce in the present times.

Marriage — it can be very hard

The series consists of five episodes, each depicting the stages of marital grief that Jonathan and Mira go through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the first episode, the couple is shown being interviewed by a researcher who asks them about things like why their marriage is such a success.

They bristle at this question because they’re not the type of people who would openly brag about their supposedly successful marriage. That said, their marriage does indeed come off as a success, at least on the surface — they’re even about to have a baby! But are they really a marriage success story?

SPOILER ALERT: They are not.

Having a second child appears to be the main source of conflict for them. On one hand, they’re delighted that Mira is pregnant. On the other hand, a second child will shake up the current dynamic of their household’s management. Jonathan will become even busier as a stay-at-home and work-from-home dad, while main breadwinner Mira is going to hit a snag on her way to the top of the corporate ladder, which she wants to climb very fast.

Nonetheless, it appears that they’re happy with the prospect of having a new child.

Saying “I want to separate” can be even more difficult than the divorce itself

Unlike many real-life couples, Jonathan and Mira do not decide to separate because they’ve grown weary of each other’s company during a pandemic-induced lockdown. Rather, it was their mutual decision not to have a second child that set the motion for their separation.

Episode two finds the couple baby-less, but this episode is filled with pregnant pauses starting from when Mira confesses to her husband that she has fallen in love with Poli, a guy at her office. She then tells him that she’s traveling to Tel Aviv for work, but more importantly because Poli is going too.

Husband and wife argue about numerous issues, including custody and visitation schedules. Mira ends up triumphant, and even has her husband packing her suitcase for her — just a normal day in the life of a married couple soon to separate.

In episode three, they are in the process of getting divorced, but it has not been finalized although both have already settled into their new lives. Mira, with her unbridled ambition, tells Jonathan of her plans to move to London for work, with him and their daughter in tow. But Jonathan declines because of his work and because he doesn’t want to uproot their daughter Ava.

All it takes is a signature to finalize the divorce… or is it?

In episode four, the couple are at their former home to sort out the delivery of their formerly conjugal furniture to their respective new homes per their settlement agreement. But this is a TV show, not a documentary. So of course, the two get into a minor tiff and then have sex to make the proceedings a lot less banal.

Later on, Mira is revealed to be hesitant to push through with the divorce because she got fired. They argue some more and end up getting physical toward each other. Unfortunately for her, Jonathan is done with the relationship, and the only thing he needs from her is her signature on the divorce papers.

Truthfully, a signature is not all it takes to complete a divorce. But getting one’s spouse to sign the divorce paperwork is a major step in finalizing it.

In the final episode, Jonathan and Mira are shown to have settled into their respective lives as divorcees/exes. They’ve also peacefully sorted Ava’s child visitation schedule. They’re also both officially single. Mira is no longer working for the firm where she used to be a superstar employee, while Jonathan is fully immersed in the world of academia. They appear to have completely moved on.

But nothing is as it seems. They are revealed to be secretly having an affair with each other and are about to rendezvous in an Airbnb that Jonathan booked for a romantic get-together as a surprise for Mira. They revisit the corners of their former home, snuggle up in the attic, and then it’s a wrap.

Signing the divorce papers may finalize the dissolution of a marriage, but for couples like Jonathan and Mira who share a rich, complicated history, the bonds often remain inextricably linked.

If you want to see Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain mimic a once happily married couple get divorced, watch Scenes From a Marriage. If you want to see dedicated family law attorneys handle your divorce case in the Evergreen state without drama, call Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams.