Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘A Marriage’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2021, Movies by - May 09, 2021
Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘A Marriage’

Zdenka, a paraplegic office worker from the Czech Republic, gets ready for bed. Through narration, she tells the director about why she prefers her country over Pakistan, where her husband Tabish lives. Tabish, on the other hand, is walking in a beach in Karachi, FaceTime-ing Zdenka, wishing she was with him. The two met, of all places, in Farmville, but their bond over that game was strong enough that they decided to marry in Sri Lanka. They plan to live together in the Czech Republic, a country with slightly better accessibility. But Czech bureaucratic ignorance tries to tear them apart.

There are enough intriguing aspects in A Marriage, like the interactions that take place online. That’s where Zdenka and Tabish’s marriage practically exist during five or so years of their marriage, and they’re only able to spend three weeks together in real life in Sri Lanka every year. Most scenes here show the two FaceTime-ing each other. And there’s also the occasional close-up of a laptop screen as Zdenka toes the line between outrage and pleading in a letter to the new Czech Foreign ministry. Love, during the 21st century, is at the mercy of bureaucrats and their opinions.

As intriguing as some of it is, the documentary’s first two acts feel like they mostly take place in the Czech Republic. The couple express why they prefer that country quickly, but it should at least give viewers more insight into Tabish’s life. It also plays its share of sad tracks whenever they’re alone, which feels bait and switch especially during the scenes when Tabish tries to get a Czech visa. The third act here also feels like the filmmakers made it to cause anxiety. As I write these things though, it’s still an honest portrayal of a modern marriage.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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