I Do… Until I Don’t follows a filmmaker named Vivian (played by Dolly Wells), as she’s making a documentary about marriage and its challenges. She focuses her film on three dysfunctional couples – Lake Bell and Ed Helms, who are trying to have a baby, Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac, who have more of an open relationship, and Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen, who have been married for a while, determined to prove that the concept of marriage is outdated. However, as their family struggles rise to the surface, each couple is forced to re-examine their relationships and challenge Vivian’s assumptions about the nature of marriage itself.
Written and directed by Lake Bell, the film has a solid cast (Where have you been, Paul Reiser?) and a unique tone. By blending comedy and drama with documentary elements, the film seems to defy many of the normal conventions associated with any specific genre. What’s more, it also proves to be an interesting exploration of the nature of relationships. Though the comedy and drama are obviously heightened circumstances (as they often are in such films), the dialogue between the couples still somehow feels authentic. In a credit to Bell’s writing, the arguments, mistrust, and even moments of grace that break in between couples manage to feel grounded in reality. In doing so, the film is able to effectively explore the complexities of relationships in a way that actually demonstrates the value of spending your life with another person.
While countless other films have looked at the ‘ups and downs’ of relationships, I Do… set itself apart by intentionally looks at marriage as a concept. Through Vivian, Bell focuses her lens on the question of whether or not marriage is an outdated idea or a remnant of an oppressive culture. (After all, as Vivian would argue, shouldn’t all contracts have an expiry time?) As a pastor, I found it refreshing to see a film that reminds us the importance of honoring our commitments to one another, even when things get hard. While views on marriage have changed in recent decades, I Do… reminds us that there remains value in the concept itself, allowing for vulnerability and support between partners.
Without any spoilers, it was also interesting to see how Bell shows the value of marriage without pushing against those who choose to remain single. Too often, rom-coms give the impression that ‘finding your soul mate’ is the only important thing in the world but Bell manages to avoid this trap by admitting that it isn’t for everyone as well. (Incidentally, this argument again points back to the seriousness of marriage itself.)
While the story for I Do… Until I Don’t can struggle at times, solid performances from the key cast and its unique structure help the film to remain entertaining. However, in the end, the real value of the film lies in its deliberate exploration relationships at a time when our culture takes it for granted.
I Do… Until I Don’t is in theaters now.