This one comes to us from Benjamin Y. Goff. Spoilers ahead.

“Criminal lawyers see bad people at their best, divorce lawyers see good people at their worst,” and the adage could not be truer in Noah Baumbach’s newest film, Marriage Story. With a misleading title, the movie follows the demise of an actor-director couple (Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, respectively) as they try to navigate the dangerously murky waters of a cross-country divorce that literally takes place between Hollywood and Broadway.

Charlie Barber (Driver) is a well-renowned theater director whose star since his humble beginnings has been his wife and former Hollywood-teen-idol Nicole (Johannson). A family born in Los Angeles but bred in New York, the Barbers have reached an impasse and decide to bring both their professional relationship and marriage to an end. A process that starts out with each character willing to give the other as much as they want (with few exceptions) finds its way into becoming a greedy and selfish monster eating anything in its path.

While the film doesn’t end as bleakly as it gets in its climax, the sentiment remains the same from Baumbach: the detrimental aspects of marriage which lead to divorce intensify throughout the process of a separation. Baumbach accelerates dialogue and tightens shots to trap our characters in the frames. He shows how what seems conversational is highly reactive, as each character by turns attempts to get even.

We learn that, in the beginning of the Barbers’ divorce, Charlie has an affair with his stage manager. In response, Nicole has an affair with her Hollywood grip. When Nicole gets a lawyer to help vocalize her desire to relocate, Charlie gets a lawyer who attacks Nicole’s character. Throughout the marriage, Nicole continually tells Charlie she wants to leave NYC and move to LA, where her family and desired career are. Charlie, insisting that they’re “a New York family,” refuses for an entire decade. As her first move in the divorce proceedings, Nicole takes the job on the TV pilot in LA, moves to LA, and enrolls their son in school in LA. According to all legal judgments, they officially become an LA family. This constant competition between the two parties is a game where no matter the outcome, everyone loses.

I can’t help but sympathize with our two characters on screen, not because I side with one character or the other, but because I see the lack of one massive component in their marriage which would have stopped the horrific onslaught dead in its tracks from the start: grace.

In Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, he spends a great deal of time discussing the importance of grace in marriage. Zahl notes that many partnerships are based on negotiation, which is actually the law taking its toll at home. A negotiation-style marriage builds a hierarchy of duties, and the division of duties can never be equal. Spouses become rivals, constantly brokering the terms of engagement and getting even. Zahl refutes this style explicitly: “grace nullifies competition in marriage.” For as many mistakes as each spouse makes, God gives grace in their immediate wake, always extend second chances.

I’m now eight months married, and I see the Barbers’ tendencies in my own home. My wife and I fall prey to the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality. While it works sometimes, it is far from a sustainable model. We can only rely on support from outside ourselves. As our groom, Jesus relentlessly cares for us beyond all deserving. When media bombards me with images that guide my marriage to look more like the Barbers’, Jesus promises to love my wife and me regardless.

In two adjacent scenes at the end of the film, Nicole and Charlie sing their favorite Stephen Sondheim songs from his show Company. Nicole, her mother, and her sister sing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” in LA, while Charlie sings “Being Alive” to his theater company at a dinner in NYC. Charlie’s scene rips a hole in the viewer’s heart as we see him realize everything he’s lost in his divorce: someone to hold him too close, to need him too much, to let him come through, as frightened as him, and give him support for being alive.

Charlie understands the opportunity he had to fully love the woman who was wholly willing to love him. The shame and the heartbreak are too much. What Jesus’ one-way love means here is that when we inevitably sell out, he never does. In our unfaithful marriage to him, his final word is always grace.