“The Wife” review by Alex and Nate Blake

Directed by: Bjorn Runge

Length: 100 minutes

Rated: R

Alex:

I think the greatest thing this film has going for it is that it tells a story that women all over the world deal with: living in the shadow of your husband. This film does that to an extreme degree, but at the core I think it is a story that women who are constantly told they aren’t enough by society live every day. Glenn Close gives an amazing performance as a doting wife living in her Nobel winning husband’s (Jonathan Pryce) shadow. Throughout the film, his indiscretions throughout life start to come to light. You come to realize he isn’t who the world thinks he is.

Bjorn Runge shot a visually stunning film with very complex characters. With that being said, this is a film that was adapted from a book and there are some issues that arise because of that. First, there were some pacing issues. Everything was happening at once or nothing was happening at all. Second, considering the turmoil of this story, the ending was a little too clean for my liking. As a book, I can see how the ending worked, but it did not translate very well to film.

There were some very well done aspects to this film. Jocelyn Pook wrote a wonderful score for this film. The pacing issues that I explained earlier were minimized because of the use of the score. At times it was dramatic and dynamic and at others is was quiet and simple. It really helped to set the overall mood of this film. The chemistry between Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce also helped make this film what it was. It was an example of great casting. This film would not have been as good without them leading the cast. All in all, this was a good film. I am not sure it would make my top ten list at the end of the year, but it is definitely a worthy watch.

Nate:

The Wife is a perfect example of what a travesty it is that Glenn Close has never won an Oscar. She has been nominated six times, and always watched someone else walk up to the stage. That might change this year, and it would not just be a make-good. Close is perfect as Joan Castleman, a woman who re-evaluates the course of her life while on a trip with her husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) to Stockholm so he can accept a Nobel Prize in literature. Joan and Joe’s relationship is strained a by a secret that, if revealed, could undo his career, their marriage and relationships with the children.

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I won’t delve much more into the plot. This is a film with a thin plot and a not so shocking revelation near the halfway point. Too many unsubtle hints are dropped early on for the plot to be surprising. The big reveals are the way the characters respond to each other and to the increasing possibility that the secret will be revealed. This will likely be remembered as one of Close’s best performances, and a solid entry as well for Pryce and Christian Slater, who plays a biographer out to unearth the couple’s secret.

Setting the performances aside, the film does have some weaknesses. The lighting and composition, even in during the less heavy moments, is grim, and a bit washed out. This could be intentional to suggest the darkness that these characters hide behind their smiles, but it gives the images an unrelenting dreariness for almost the entire run time.

There is an element of the ending, which I won’t spoil here, the just seems unnecessary. It interrupts to the trajectory of where Joan is headed, but if she had maintained course, it would have made more sense based on everything that happened up to the last 10 minutes. Instead, her plan is interrupted by a development that is well-foreshadowed, but a bit cliché. This ultimately makes The Wife a film that is better appreciated for the journey it takes you on rather than the destination it reaches. These performances would be a shame to overlook, however, and the film is quite thought provoking even with its flaws. This originally premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It has taken a long time to reach theaters, but it is largely worth that lengthy wait.

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