Mo Perkins’ “A Quiet Little Marriage” – 2009 Slamdance Film Festival Review

"A Quiet Little Marriage"The curtain falls on many romantic comedies with happily-ever-after scenes of couples strolling down the street or up the wedding aisle. But what do their lives really look like a few years later? “A Quiet Little Marriage” – which won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival – lifts the rose-scented veil to give a painfully funny look at the day-to-day truth newlyweds need to cope with.

In writer and director Mo Perkins’ first feature film, Olive and Dax Hughes grow unwittingly treacherous toward each other after two years of a blissfully peaceful marriage. They’re still deeply in love, but their clashing views on how a loving marriage should mature causes them to grow more juvenile and deceptive with one another. For Olive, their love should manifest itself by delivering a baby, whom they can shower with even more love. For Dax, who struggled through a difficult childhood, a committed love should protect their marriage from being ruined by the birth of a child.

Each one stomps his or her feet louder as Olive’s father slips deeper into the abyss of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dax’s substance-abusing brother digs himself into deeper trouble. The Los Angeles couple’s passive-aggressive stubbornness leads Olive to poke holes in her diaphragm and Dax to slip crushed birth-control pills into his wife’s coffee each morning. This charade allows them both to believe they’re getting their way without wrecking the marriage with heated arguments. But it unravels when Dax accidentally overdoses Olive’s cup of Joe, sending her into a nearly suicidal tizzy – although he’s somehow the one who winds up in the hospital getting his stomach pumped – and practically tearing their marriage apart.

Just when viewers think there’s no way this 85-minute movie – or any marriage – can end well, the storyline takes a pleasantly unpredictable twist that avoids sappiness yet leaves the audience feeling comforted and content. To be sure, Olive and Dax will still need to do a better job behaving like adults, but they reassure us they’re capable of doing so since they’ve figured out what it means to love and be committed as husband and wife.

The magic of this film – which also won awards at the Santa Cruz and Austin Film Festivals – is the refreshingly raw honesty of both the storyline and the acting. “A Quiet Little Marriage” resonates with universally understood but often unmentioned core truths, hopes, and fears — so much so that even middle-aged men sitting in the Slamdance audience wiped tears from their eyes.

“A Quiet Little Marriage” can be viewed through IFC Films On Demand. Also, read more on Perkins’ reasons for making the film as well as the filmmaking process in Meniscus Magazine.