The Wife
dir Bjorn Runge
scr Jane Anderson
prd Claudia Bluemhuber, Rosalie Swedlin, Meta Louise Foldager, Piers Tempest
with Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Christian Slater, Elizabeth McGovern, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Alix Wilton Regan, Michael Benz, Karin Franz Korlof, Twinnie Lee Moore, Jane Garioni
release US 17.Aug.18, UK 28.Sep.18
17/Sweden 1h40
The Wife
The silent partner: Close

pryce irons slater
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Wife Blistering performances make this drama worth a look, although it's the general ideas swirling through the film that provide the fuel rather than the machinations of the plot. Glenn Close has a particularly riveting character, which she plays with a sharp edge of nuance and subtext. And the journey her character takes is simply devastating in ways the rest of the film can't quite muster.

In 1992, Joe (Pryce) wins the Nobel Prize for literature and his summoned to Stockholm to receive the honour along with his steadfast wife Joan (Close) and family. Their daughter (Regan) is heavily pregnant so can't attend, but their adult son David (Irons) comes along. As does nosey journalist Nathaniel (Slater), who is hoping to write Joe's biography. But David is annoyed that Joe is dismissing his own work as a writer, and Joan is tired of playing the role of the supportive spouse when there's a lot more to their story than that.

A deep, dark secret gives the film a driving sense of intrigue and kind of undercuts the other themes. This is a story about how women have learned to survive in a man's world by remaining invisibly in the background. This topic feels fresh, but the film's approach to it is somewhat arch. Thankfully, the character drama is mesmerising, building a raw sense of conflict between people who seem to be living a perfect life. There are micro-aggressions everywhere, plus bigger ones beneath the surface.

Close and Pryce are terrific, diving in headlong to depict these people warts and all. Their interaction has an intoxicating authenticity, earthy and easy but layered with a sense that they've fallen into a routine that obscures things they don't want to deal with. In this sense, Close gets the showier role as a woman who breaks the seal on the unspoken. But Pryce never blinks. And Irons has some powerful scenes of his own, even if he is oddly sidelined.

Somewhat unnecessarily, the film continually flashes back to the 1950s and 60s to show the younger Joan and Joe (Starke and Lloyd). These sequences are nicely shot and played, but don't add to the film. Especially when there are actors like Close and Pryce who can let much more forceful emotions flicker across their faces as they remember their past than anything we see in a cutaway. Indeed, they are what gives weight to this pungent exploration of gender roles.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 16.Jul.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall