Married Life, the third feature from Ira Sachs, marks a major departure for the Memphis-born filmmaker. The first of his movies to take place away from his native South, and his only period picture, Married Life stakes out new thematic ground for a director whose previous efforts, The Delta and Forty Shades of Blue, focused resolutely on outsiders, people on the margins trying to navigate their way through an unfamiliar, unfriendly, and even hostile social environment. By contrast, Married Life tackles a far more commonplace—and rather banal—subject: suburban heterosexual partnership and the mysterious, often unspoken undercurrents that both threaten and sustain ostensibly happy marriages.
Married Life opens much like an episode of Desperate Housewives, complete with a winky, nudgy animated title sequence and a dreadful voiceover from a supporting character (here, Pierce Brosnan’s Richard Langley), but these initially arch shadings become less pronounced as the film veers into romantic melodrama territory: It’s late 1949, and Harry (Chris Cooper) has fallen for the beautiful Kay Nesbitt (Rachel McAdams), despite being pleasantly (if not happily) married to Pat (Patricia Clarkson). Harry takes Richard into his confidence, resolving to find a way out of his marriage. Things get dicier when Richard also falls for Kay, and then discovers that Pat has her own extracurricular activities. And so we’re left with a many-sided love polygon made all the more complicated by postwar suburban social and sexual mores.
Click here to read Chris Wisniewski’s review of Married Life.