Starring: Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Eric Dane
Director: David Frankel
Running Time: 115 mins
Marley & Me is an American film about a family’s life and experiences over the years with their naughty but adorable dog, Marley.
Now, you may think it’s cheesy, and you may think that it’s just a story about a dog, but there’s something about Marley & Me that really, really hit me. Although it occasionally struggles in the narrative department, its core heart and emotion is so powerful and so genuine that it’s impossible not to be moved by the story, telling the simple yet spectacular story of an ordinary life with such tenderness and such stunning passion, to the point that you’ll be both beaming with a smile and in floods of tears come the finish.
That’s where I want to start, because while, at the outset at least, this film looks a little on the sappy, simple side, I was hugely impressed by just how well Marley & Me was able to tell a genuinely brilliant story about life. Of course, the film is based on real memoirs, and that gives it a striking authenticity that’s almost impossible to create out of thin air, but it’s the way that it goes about applying that genuine story and emotion on the big screen that also proves so striking.
Juggling a very difficult balance between comedy and drama, the film starts off in deliriously funny fashion, with the chaos of naughty Marley’s arrival into the home, as well as both of Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston’s exploits in the early years as a married couple.
That opening act is light, fluffy and cute, and it’s exactly what’s needed to really endear you to the characters and their core relationships. Owen Wilson’s relationship with Marley is the centrepiece of the movie, and it’s filled with such passionate and relatable emotion (I’ve had two dogs, and this film hits the nature of that relationship absolutely spot on).
However, more than just that side of the story, Wilson and Aniston’s relationship first as a married couple and then as parents is first filled with great energy and delightful chemistry – both leads put in really great performances – and then develops so effectively as they become more experienced and battle-hardened through the trials and tribulations of their daily lives.
And that’s where the film really shifts, from the cute, sweet comedy of the opening act to a very sentimental but still stunningly heartfelt account of how spectacular an ordinary life can be. Looking at the story as a whole, there’s nothing world-changing about the lives that these people lead, yet in their own world, the ups and downs and highs and lows they experience are enormous, with emotional instability, fear and drama right the way through.
The only point where the film struggles in this department is when it’s trying to retain some of that fluffier humouru from the first act as the story becomes more serious. I adored the more heartfelt and genuine approach to the drama at hand, and felt the initial transition from the cuter comedy early on was handled brilliantly, but through the second act, there are a number of moments where, in the midst of increasingly engrossing and powerful drama, there’s a rather jarring comedic break.
With that said, the way that this story creates such drama and allows you to form such an emotional connection with the characters is astonishing, and by the time the third act rolls around, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid breaking down into tears over the course of about half an hour.
The story of the couple’s life is spectacular to follow, and the emotional depth it accumulates makes the weight of the final act all the more impressive, but there’s no escaping the sheer power of the last years of the relationship with Marley, as he grows old and weak, but still receives and gives as much love and affection as he did the very first day he arrived.
Again, if you’ve had a dog of your own, and you’ve been through this experience, the emotional power will be absolutely off the charts here for you. I was in floods of tears for the entire final act, crying and weeping buckets even as the credits were rolling, but that all comes from the film’s brilliant charisma, likability and stunningly genuine emotion from the beginning.
So, while personal experience may play an additional role into what you feel with this film, the emotional impact will certainly not be lost on anyone because of that brilliant writing, directing and acting from the start.
Overall, Marley & Me is a truly delightful film, filled with deliriously funny humour, wonderful charisma, endearing characters, genuine emotion and exceptional dramatic power, telling the story of an ordinary life in the most spectacular of fashions, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0.