The Ones That Got Away: Our Review of ‘Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 15, 2019
The Ones That Got Away: Our Review of ‘Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love’

Looking back on lost loves can be a messy thing…

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is an interesting but fairly messy affair that looks back at how a love affair played an important part in the kicking off of an entire career.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is renowned filmmaker Nick Broomfield’s most personal and romantic film of his storied career. The documentary starts on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, where Leonard Cohen, then a struggling and unknown fiction writer, and Marianne Ihlen, a single mother with a young son, became part of community of expat artists, writers and musicians. Never-before-seen footage shot by Broomfield and legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker make for a unique portrait of an idyllic 1960’s bohemia. It was a time that left a lasting imprint on both Marianne and Leonard, whose friendship would last another fifty years before their deaths in 2016.

This one of those films that suffers from ultimately feeling like an ‘unofficial’ production; it’s all plays pretty lovely but it loses any kind of objectivity and turns into a really well made fan piece and slice from the pop culture zeitgeist.  However at the same time it’s not something that needs to be rushed to be seen either.

Director Nick Broomfield has carved a nice little niche for himself doing these deep character dives into the past of rock and popular music.  While it has these run of the mill moments as we track the evolution of Leonard Cohen from washed up poet to infamous ladies man with the heartless sensibilities of a real bastard but the genuine enthusiasm comes from the fact that we see him BEFORE all that.  We see him with Marianne and get to experience some of her story as well.  She was more than a conquest and truly more than a muse and Broomfield to his credit does get to the bottom of all that which makes for a compelling watch even though you easily see how he’s painting the entire story in a rose coloured brush from beginning to end.

While interesting, it’s hard not to call Marianne & Leonard anything more than a ‘fan’ film, all be it probably one of the more compelling ones ever made, especially if you are a fan of Leonard Cohen.  It never shakes the admiration that it has for the subjects but the film really looks honestly at the power on all of our respective lives of that one true love that ultimately got away.

  • Release Date: 7/12/2019
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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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