Behind any great man, there's always a greater woman. Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) has spent forty years sacrificing her own talent, dreams and ambition to support her charismatic, philandering husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) and his brilliant literary career. Their faithful pact reaches breaking point on the eve of his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm.
Review by Louise Keller:
A portrait of a marriage, complete with baggage, secrets and lies, the film's pulse relies on the complexities of the central relationship and the tumultuous undercurrent that bubbles beneath. There are plot revelations of course, but the grit lies in the examination of reactions and responses as lives are propelled outside comfort zones. Eventually there is nowhere to hide. Without question, it is Glenn Close's film; her economy of expression, emotion and delivery are made all the more potent by their understatement. Yet we know exactly what she is thinking and feeling throughout and we are with her all the way, sharing her journey to its climactic conclusion.
It comes as no surprise the novel (by Meg Wolitzer) and screenplay (by Jane Anderson) are both written by women. Replete with subtleties, the observations could be said to be those of a perceptive woman. That's not to say it is a woman's film. Swedish director Bjorn Runge grounds the action decisively and the fact that Stockholm, where most of the film is set, wears her winter dress in the chilly December weather, adds to the isolation of the characters. This is an involving and emotionally satisfying film with grown up themes.
Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce, perfect) and his wife Joan (Close) are in bed in Connecticut when the film begins. It is 1992. The smallness of the bed and the playful sexual interaction between them accentuates the intimacy between the long-married couple. They know each other well. Then comes the news they have been hoping for. The scene when Joe and Joan jump together on the bed chanting is a lovely moment.
The action continues in Stockholm, where Joe is the centre of attention as the Nobel Prize winner in Literature. The fact that he notices Linnea, the pretty photographer (Karin Franz Korlof, beautifully cast) does not escape us. Nor does Joan's observation of what is obviously a pattern. Watch for the references involving a walnut.
The film concentrates on the relationships. Husband and wife; father and son; interaction with the journalist. Aspiring writer son, David (Max Irons, excellent) clearly longs for his father's approval - something he does not get. As for the journalist (Christian Slater, effective), he has his own theory on the dynamics of the relationship between Joe and Joan.
We watch in fascination as everything unfolds - in the present and the past when secrets and motivations are revealed. Food for thought is the line of dialogue: 'A writer has to write'. And the response: 'A writer has to be read'.
I love the final scene. Where it is. What happens. And the implications. You will certainly enjoy meeting The Wife.
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WIFE, THE (M)
(Sweden, US, UK, 2018)
CAST: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Karin Franz Korlof, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd
PRODUCER: Claudia Bluemhuber, Peter Gustafsson, Rosalie Swedlin, Meta Louise Foldager Sorensen, Piers Tempest
DIRECTOR: Bjorn Runge
SCRIPT: Jane Anderson (Novel by Meg Politzer)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ulf Brantas
EDITOR: Lena Runge
MUSIC: Jocelyn Pook
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Leese
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 2, 2018