The Women’s Alliance in “Marriage Story”

Marriage Story, Netflix’s latest feature film release, has made headlines for its Golden Globe nominations, star power, and, yes, the fight scene that went viral. The film follows the divorce of Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver), an accomplished actor-playwright duo. As the two emotionally struggle through the dissolution of their marriage, they follow the advice of their LA divorce lawyers in many of the decisions they make. The relationship between Nicole and her divorce lawyer, Nora (Laura Dern), highlights the importance of companionship among women. Nora helps Nicole discover how important her own wishes and her independence are to her.

Nicole first meets Nora in her office, and though initially uncomfortable by the glamour of Nora’s office and appearance, Nora kicks off her heels and settles down on the couch next to Nicole – more like a best friend than a lawyer – and Nicole begins to open up. She lives her husband’s life, following his dreams and decisions. She tells Nora that Charlie does not see her as being independent from him, and Charlie has never seriously considered Nicole’s ambitions. Charlie belittles her, scoffing when she vocalizes her dream of moving to Los Angeles to revive her on-screen acting career in a TV pilot. Nora listens, reminding Nicole that what she’s doing “is an act of hope” – “You’re saying, ‘I want something better for myself,’” she reassures her.

Nora’s advice to Nicole stretches beyond her role as a lawyer – it comes from her as a woman. A notable moment in the film is Nora’s wake-up call to Nicole, in which she warns her that mothers are held to an unfair standard and the court is going to be much harder on Nicole than on Charlie over their son’s custody. Nora’s fierce defense of Nicole stems from her shared maternal experience, as she has also been through a divorce. She is tough because she needs to be. As Dern puts it in an interview with Deadline, Nora exemplifies “how women have to fight, and how women have to go up against men in their workplace environment”. Nora knows Nicole’s worth and refuses to let her settle for less.  

Nora and Nicole’s relationship in Marriage Story illustrates the power of the alliance of women. Women support one another, share similar hardships, and empathize with each other’s conditions. Nora helps Nicole reclaim her independence, which Nora then uses to follow her own path and dreams. The patriarchy is no match for women in solidarity.

Take Action! Thank the women in your life who empower you and encourage you to follow your dreams.