Ten years after directing and self-distributing his feature debut Papadopoulos & Sons, Marcus Markou is back with another impressively-put-together low-budget movie. This time around he’s made a serious and slightly self-conscious divorce drama with a pair of deeply-felt performances by Laura Bayston and Laurence Spellman. They play Cassie and Matthew, a couple from London, separating in their 40s.
To the outside world, Cassie and Matthew’s divorce looks like the model of amicability: they’ve managed to agree on everything without going to court. But it gets messy at their final mediation session, as years of hurt and resentment boil over. Cassie has been the breadwinner, and she can’t help bringing up the fact that she’s “giving” Matthew the house. Furious, he yells that he gave up a career in teaching to raise the kids. It’s a shaky start to the film, a bit shouty with some awkwardly clumsy comedy inserted by their hopeless mediator.
But the film gets into its stride as Cassie and Matthew carry out a series of tasks laid out in a letter they wrote together as newlyweds, addressed to their future selves in the event of divorce. The tasks (like going on their first date again) are clearly intended to rekindle their love. But after a couple of decades together it’s more complicated than that. Their marriage is like a vase smashed into a dozen pieces; the damage is done. But at times Cassie and Matthew seem to convince themselves it can be glued back together again.
This is an interesting, worthwhile movie that genuinely gets under the skin of a long marriage – though at times the drama feels a bit contrived and overworked, especially scenes involving Cassie’s extramarital relationships. And what’s with that title? It feels years out of date to define a woman unironically as a “wife”, or call a man who works in the home a “house husband”.
It is being shown in cinemas alongside Markou’s 12 minute film Two Strangers Who Meet Five Times (clearly he has a thing for lengthy and literal titles). The short, a sentimental tale about a damaged homeless man and a rich start-up entrepreneur, has racked up three million views on YouTube.