Pick of the Day: “Mark, Mary & Some Other People”

From the very beginning of their relationship, Mary (Hayley Law) and Mark (Ben Rosenfield) do things a little unconventionally. In the opening scenes of “Mark, Mary & Some Other People,” the 20-something former classmates re-meet at a convenience store. He’s torn between buying Doritos or Fritos, and she’s purchasing a pregnancy test. They hit it off, and he asks her out, even though she’s smack dab in the middle of a pregnancy scare.

Mary turns out not to be pregnant, and she and Mark embark on a whirlwind, extremely hipster-y romance, culminating in matching tattoos and a wedding at a tacky chapel. They love each other and love being married to each other, but it’s not long before they realize the terms of their union may need to be renegotiated. With a few ground rules in place, and not a little insecurity on Mark’s part, they give ethical non-monogamy a go.

In spite of its polyamory angle, “Mark, Mary & Some Other People” isn’t trying to break the rom-com mold so much as give it a tune-up. Writer-director-producer Hannah Marks stocks the film with traditional rom-com elements (a group of friends that advise and tease the main characters, snappy dialogue, a world where people with purportedly no money somehow afford to go out every day of the week), and updates them from an undeniably 2020s perspective. In other words, this does not feel like a film that could’ve been made in the ’90s — and I mean that as a compliment. The cast is not blindingly white; there are several queer characters, including Mary, who have sex on-screen; and, in a spin on the classic rom-com makeover montage, Mary and Mark help each other optimize their dating profiles.

Still, “Mark, Mary & Some Other People” falls into the same trap as many rom-coms before it: the film introduces unnecessarily high stakes late in the game to create obstacles on the couple’s road to happily ever after. You’d think the entire premise of ethical non-monogamy — the potential for jealousy or relationship inequities, plus the fact that Mark isn’t as cool with it as Mary is — would make for enough drama on its own.

“Mark, Mary & Some Other People” isn’t a perfect movie, but it succeeds in pushing the rom-com genre in interesting new directions, and hints at great things to come from Marks as a filmmaker. (Her script earned her the Best Screenplay – U.S. Narrative prize at Tribeca this year.) If she wants to bring her specific sensibility to a sci-fi pic or action film next, I’m all for it.

“Mark, Mary & Some Other People” is now in theaters and available on VOD.

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