Malcolm & Marie review: Zendaya ‘lights up the screen’ in Netflix domestic drama

John David Washington stars alongside Zendaya in the first major feature film to be produced, written, and filmed in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Zendaya is clearly having a moment.

In arguably the first lockdown feature film to be written, filmed and produced amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the commanding young actress reunites with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson to create black-and-white two-hander Malcolm & Marie – a Netflix film that not only provides a look at a fiery romance but also shines a light on the film industry as a whole.

Following the premiere of his latest hard-hitting drama about addiction, film director Malcolm ( John David Washington ) and his actress-girlfriend Marie ( Zendaya ) return to their spacious home.

However, as Malcolm releases both joy and irritation at the events of the evening, Marie gradually reveals resentment that has been boiling over because of her boyfriend’s recent actions.

What follows is a series of confrontations that force each of them to face up to their failings, doubts, artistry, and future together.

Malcolm & Marie is a highly-watchable and occasionally dizzying snowglobe that enables its leads to deliver some cracklings performances, which Levinson is certainly happy to step back and let the film soak in. Apart from the visually-arresting use of black-and-white here, the director-writer keeps stylistic flourishes to a minimum.

Washington offers some of his most varied work yet as Malcolm, showing us an artist assured to the point of arrogance in his abilities and articulate in his anger, but often seems lacking in empathy for his girlfriend.

Unlike Christopher Nolan’s Tenet which failed to capitalise entirely on the star’s charisma, Levinson coaxes out the most expressive personality from Washington – ideal for some of the wild monologues later in the film.

However, the true winner in this film has to be Zendaya, galvanised after her Emmy-winning work on Euphoria and delivering a brittle, sharp, emotional, and often funny turn as the stubborn Marie.

Troubled by doubts but certain of her contribution to Malcolm’s life, Marie is a complicated individual who won’t be an ignored muse to her privileged spouse.