TRIBECA 2022 REVIEW: ‘My Love Affair with Marriage’ (2022) Threads Together Animation and Science through Song

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“These issues within the chemistry of people’s brains are important for people to understand, especially young girls and women.”

Signe Baumane’s My Love Affair with Marriage is a coming-of-age story about young Zelma (voiced by Dagmara Dominczyk), who discovers that songs and fairy tales about love will solve her problems. An exploration of love, sex, romance, and gender, all taken from a first-person perspective, the film intertwines biological segments that show Zelma’s life through the world of her brain. Part musical and part animation, it connects thematic moments through songs and is narrated by Biology (voiced by Michele Pawk), a neuron-like talking character who guides viewers through Zelma’s journey from childhood to adulthood. My Love Affair with Marriage is a personal and deeply emotional story of a young girl that searches for love and struggles to conform to a patriarchal society.

Ever since Zelma was a young girl, she dreamed of falling in love with someone. As a child, Zelma believed that she was equal to boys, but her mother shattered her world by revealing that women are expected to do certain things in their lives. She teaches her that the most important asset is her virginity and that every woman must aim to get married and have kids, regardless of whether they love their partner or not. When Zelma enters school, she quickly learns that she needs to be weaker and more submissive to get the attention of the boy she likes, and these stereotypical and patriarchal views of marriage, love, and gender are passed down from childhood to adulthood. By the time, Zelda meets her first husband Sergei (voiced by Cameron Monaghan), she ends up in an abusive relationship and realises that the marriage was never equal. Zelma searches for love through several marriages and multiple continents, examining her intimate relationships and the concept of true love. 

A still of an animated character from 'My Love Affair with Marriage'.
Image courtesy of Locomotive Productions

My Love Affair with Marriage is based heavily on Baumane’s life, and the animated musical’s main theme — the belief that marriage is a societal construct to pressure young women to feel submissive towards their partners, husbands and boyfriends — is a deeply personal one to her. The movie depicts how patriarchy, societal structures, and hierarchies suppress women’s life and behaviour to fit other people’s expectations of how they should function in the world. Through various forms of animation, Baumane examines how Zelma’s intimate relationships change through the neurotransmitters as she falls in and out of love, and allows the viewers to be immersed in the story. 

Zelma has a wild imagination that is partially controlled by Biology, who examines her from a feral-like child to an adult, where she has gone through many stages of her life. Biology tells the story from Zelma’s internalised perspective, as she gets seduced by society and conforms to the stereotypical views of marriage. It’s like a theatrical experience of watching the neurons respond to Zelma’s emotions from anger to sadness and falling in love, all of which have a unique style. Due to the complexity of the themes, and Zelma’s wild imagination, animation is the best medium to portray her. Baumane uses a mixture of hand-drawn animation and stop-motion imposed with hand-made sets and papier-mâché sculptures. Zelma’s environment and imagination express the struggles and imperfections of her life. 

An animated still of a young girl sitting in a chair. She is surrounded by bizarre-looking winged characters in purple, who point at her.
Image courtesy of Locomotive Productions

My Love Affair with Marriage can only be described as a vulnerable story that depicts the realities that young girls and women face in this patriarchal world. It shows the multiple pathways women must take to fulfil their lives according to society’s values and expectations. The animated musical is an accessible and universal experience for all women to a certain degree. These issues within the chemistry of people’s brains are important for people to understand, especially young girls and women. Even if times have changed, cultures and traditional values are still very strong within a patriarchal society that conforms to and resists women’s existence in the world. My Love Affair with Marriage shows the importance of self-love, and this couldn’t be a more relevant film for young girls around the world.