Stream It Or Skip It: ‘The Marriage App’ on Netflix, An Argentine Rom-Com Gamifying Couples’ Therapy

If it seems like everything in life is gamified today, you’re not wrong. Netflix original The Marriage App takes this concept to a new extreme, asking what would happen if a bickering couple could turn their marriage around by turning it into a game. This twist on the rom-com feels like a painfully contemporary take on the genre as it introduces a literalized competition into their quest for nuptial satisfaction.

The Gist: The Marriage App opens with one heck of a meet-cute – Federico (Juan Minujín) plows his car right into the open door of Belén (Luisana Lopilato) as she loads her car with gifts from Christmas shopping. He uses the window to ask her out, and then we cut to a few years later when they’re married with kids … and the spark present in their initial rendezvous has been all but extinguished by the forces of life. When they meet up with a couple who seems hotter for each other than ever, Fede and Belén have to ask what their secret is.

What they find is a company called Equilibrium that runs a program called “marriage miles” (the English translation of the title is a bit of a misnomer as there is not truly any kind of “application”). Using cutting-edge Japanese technology, the company assigns a point value to actions taken by the couple tracked by a watch. They lose miles for selfishness and gain them when they do something to put the interests of their partner first. At the outset, they see themselves as team players working towards a cumulative total. But the potential to “bank” miles to cash out for their own personal interests becomes too irresistible, and the old fault lines in their relationship emerge as they jockey to outmaneuver each other for miles.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Imagine a Black Mirror episode (specifically Nosedive, where Bryce Dallas Howard’s Lacie becomes obsessed with her “star” status) crossed with a Hallmark rom-com. You could also describe the vibe as the competitiveness of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with the substantive process of Couples Retreat.

Performance Worth Watching: There’s no clear standout performance between leads Juan Minujín and Luisana Lopilato. Unlike their characters, the two work marvelously in tandem to be at the exact right level for what The Marriage App needs from them. They can be a little corny when needed as well as sincere when required.

Memorable Dialogue: There’s a lot of fun discussion around the arbitrariness of the points system in The Marriage App, but perhaps none as great as Fede describing how asking his wife about her opens up Pandora’s box. “I have to ask follow-up questions that make sense,” he laments, “Otherwise I lose miles.”

Sex and Skin: The film keeps it pretty PG-13, even when it comes to a threesome scenario later in the plot. Sensual kissing during a couples’ getaway shows nothing below the bare shoulders, and an orgasm scene (or lack thereof) is conveyed with hands grasping and their watches activated. The most tantric sight in the film is Fede and Belén trading words of affirmation at the dinner table in front of their two very confused children.

Our Take: The Marriage App trades in broad strokes, skimming the surface of the potential to explore Equilibrium’s marriage miles program as well as the contours of Fede and Belén’s relationship. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – there’s always a place for comedy that does not demand much brain power. Rocio Blanco’s script has the cleverness of concept to be a great movie, but director Sebastián De Caro settles for making it a fun movie first and foremost. It gets somewhat clever in the conclusion as it elevates the importance of their children, usually relegated to ornamental boondoggles in these types of romances, but that’s about it as far as development beyond the original idea itself. They could push everything a little bit farther out beyond pleasantry, but it’s fine as is.

Our Call: STREAM IT! The Marriage App straddles the mindful/mindless divide nicely. It’s a rom-com with a novel concept yet familiar execution, providing a comforting watch that plays just outside the genre’s comfort zone. Set your expectations for simple rather than stimulating, and it’s a fun time.

Marshall Shaffer is a New York-based freelance film journalist. In addition to Decider, his work has also appeared on Slashfilm, Slant, Little White Lies and many other outlets. Some day soon, everyone will realize how right he is about Spring Breakers.