Marley & Me

Marley & Me

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Director: David Frankel
Screenplay: Scott Frank and Don Roos
Based on the book Marley & Me by John Grogan

How do I balance the demands of my job and the needs of my kids?  Should I work or stay at home while the kids are young?  Should I take the job that pays the bills or the one that fulfills my passions?  All of these questions frequently arise in therapy.  The 2008 film Marley & Me based on John Grogan’s best-selling book of the same name engages viewers along the lines of these relevant questions.  Marley & Me also explores one of the more comical questions many families eventually ask:  “Should we get a dog?”

John (Owen Wilson) and Jen (Jennifer Aniston) Grogan are passionate, in love and just starting out in their marriage and careers when they adopt Marley. Their quirky, strong-minded, high energy puppy barks to the beat of his own drummer and colors far outside of any lines society in general and dog trainers in particular may try to set.  A scene with a shockingly unadorned Kathleen Turner playing a dictatorial dog trainer is one of the many laugh-out-loud moments in the Grogan family’s trajectory which circles around their efforts to manage Marley.

Another frequent therapy topic involves the question of conflict.   The Grogans laugh together, they have fun,  they support each other.  They also fight.  Some couples wish they didn’t fight, but couples who do not experience conflict are often minimally engaged in their relationship.  If two people love each other and are invested in their marriage, fighting is inevitable, especially while raising a family.   In one of the most meaningful scenes of the film, John and Jen’s fight captures some of the most challenging dimensions of marriage and kids.  Their willingness to calm down eventually, talk rationally, and repair is likely to resonate for viewers.  Jen is hurting and frustrated, but willing to apologize and John is equally willing to engage on a meaningful level:

“Honey, I’m sorry, I just got overwhelmed.  No one tells you how hard this is all gonna to be.”

“Which part?”

“All of it.  Marriage.  Being a parent. It’s the hardest job in the world and nobody prepares you for that.  Nobody tells you how much you have to give up”.

“Sometimes I think they do tell you and you don’t listen or you just think ah, they’re just miserable.”

“I’ve given up so much of what made me who I am.  But I can’t say that because I’m a very bad person if I say that.  But I feel it.  I really do feel that sometimes.  I just, I just  want you to know it.”

“I do know that.  You can say that.  I say it.”

“But I did make a choice.  I made a choice and even if it’s harder than I thought I don’t regret it….. I just think these things are gonna happen and we’re going to get through them.”

So many moments of intense marital conflict connect with the themes of this conversation, and couples who are struggling to adjust to the demands and joys of parenthood will relate to this conversation as well as to the commonplace adventures of Marley & Me.  As hard as family life can feel, Marley & Me celebrates the essential truth that, at the end of the day, there is nothing better than the privilege of raising children, especially for those who get to do so with someone whom they love and respect.


Elisabeth LaMotte

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