Jessica Chastain Is Phenomenal In Scenes From A Marriage

Jessica Chastain's performance in the first episode of HBO's Scenes From a Marriage has already garnered widespread praise from viewers. A remake of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's 1973 miniseries of the same title, the five-episode story fixates on a contemporary married couple and examines the deterioration of their relationship 10 years after saying their vows. Chastain stars in the limited series as Mira, alongside her husband Jonathan, played by Oscar Isaac.

Chastain's career highlights include 2011's The Help and 2012's Zero Dark Thirty – both of which earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations. The actor previously appeared alongside Isaac in 2014's A Most Violent Year – a film that also secured Chastain recognition at the Golden Globes. The actor is mostly known for her roles in movies, as Scenes From a Marriage constitutes her first major TV series endeavor in over a decade.

Related: Scenes From A Marriage Cast Guide: Where You Recognize The Actors From

Scenes From a Marriage's premiere episode "Innocence and Panic," centers on Mira and Jonathan's relationship dynamic, as the pair displays a facade of compatibility, despite withholding tension beneath the surface. Both the writing directorial style presents a demanding role, particularly for Chastain, as the actor admitted to the New York Times that she "cried every day for four months" during shooting. Heavy on dialogue and rife with close-up shots, the episode focuses its lens on Mira for nearly the entirety of the episode's one-hour runtime. Chastain steals the show with her brilliant depiction of Mira, which appears intricately crafted in a manner only top-tier talents can execute.

Right from the beginning, Chastain expertly characterizes Mira's inner turmoil stemming from her pregnancy, which both the audience and her husband are yet to learn. During the couple's interview with a Ph.D. student for her study on gender norms and monogamous marriages, Chastain subtly reflects her character's unease and discomfort juxtaposed with Isaac's relaxed and confident Jonathan beside her. Flashes of dark expressions, downward glances, and peeks at her phone indicate Mira's preoccupation with her unforeseen conflict. At the same time, the actor portrays Mira as trying to appear calm and happy with the occasional forced smile and laughter. Chastain effortlessly captures the emotional nuance required by this scene, as well as the general air of a person in a relationship in which they cannot thrive as themself, which enables viewers to easily understand Mira's burden and relate with her struggle.

Later in the episode when Mira discloses her pregnancy to Jonathan, the crestfallen demeanor of which Chastain had only shown flashes beforehand finally culminates. As the two lie in bed together, Mira initially coincides with Jonathan's enthusiasm but eventually breaks down over her dilemma between continuing her pregnancy or terminating it, epitomized by the line, "It's painful wanting something and not wanting it at the same time." Mira and Jonathan ultimately opt for an abortion, yet Mira feels overwhelming distress at possibly letting down her husband, in addition to herself. The character's devastation is poignantly depicted by Chastain, as she breaks down in sobs when left alone in the examination room. Taking on such a pivotal moment in the main characters' story just one episode into the series is no easy feat, as Chastain remarked in HBO's inside look after the episode, "There's something about Mira, she's really a shadow of who she is at the end of the episode, and that was the most difficult thing for me to play." Chastain's acting prowess, paired with her seamless chemistry with the equally adept Isaac makes for an imposing reiteration of the 1973 classic tale.

With four episodes remaining in HBO's Scenes From a Marriage, the narrative's groundwork has been well-laid prominently due to Chastain's phenomenal acting display from the onset. The award-winning actor is primed for another career-best performance and should make a case to be included in next year's Emmys. The first episode of Scenes From a Marriage indicates a downward spiral in Mira and Jonathan's relationship, meaning there are plenty more heartwrenching scenes to come between Chastain and Isaac.

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