Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater
Director: Björn Runge
Running Time: 100 mins
The Wife is an American/British/Swedish film about a wife who begins to reassess her life and personal history as she travels to Stockholm where her husband is set to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Starting off as a slow, dialogue-heavy drama, you may think you know exactly what’s coming up through the rest of The Wife, but be careful, because there’s far more to this film than meets the eye. At first it’s an elegant and classy piece, albeit not one that will have you glued to the screen, however The Wife is a film that really comes to you the more attention you give it, eventually exploding into life with an enthralling and hugely dramatic second act that had me completely captivated right up to the very last thrilling moment.
So, the main thing to know about this film is that it’s best to stick with it, even when you might not think there’s all that much to see. With that said, let’s talk about the film’s first half, which is its somewhat more grounded, albeit relatively less enthralling portion.
On the positive side, the film is as elegant and classy as can be right from the first scene, as director Björn Runge gives the film a brilliantly emotive and dramatic quality that makes it feel like reading a good book from the off, making for an enticing watch immediately, and gradually pulling you in as you learn more and more about the characters and their various fascinating histories.
When it comes to the story in the first half, that’s what I found more interesting: the personal side of the characters. I was watching the film intently throughout looking for some deeper themes and ideas at play, and although they are present, they’re just not portrayed in a particularly outstanding manner, meaning it’s a little difficult to really delve into them while you’re watching.
But with the characters and their various backgrounds and relationships, there’s a huge amount of potential for intrigue and drama across the board, something that sets the film up nicely for more and more details to unravel, and for something stunning to happen at some point.
And fortunately, that’s exactly what happens, as the movie explodes into life about halfway through, turning into a powerfully intense drama that ramps the pace and stakes up to eleven, with a more overbearing dramatic atmosphere furthered by an ever-intensifying musical score, as well as the stunning shift in the performances from the leads.
I wouldn’t wish to spoil the stunning thrills that unfold towards the latter half of this movie, but I would like to talk about how those two lead performances from Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce play into that ever-growing intensity and drama towards the finish.
From the start, Close and Pryce are excellent, with a strong on-screen assurance that fully engrosses you in their characters, all the while holding brilliant chemistry with one another that further convinces you of the strength of their decades-long marriage.
But, beneath that elegance and assurance in those performances, there is a clear tension that pops up every now and then, something that’s ingeniously sprinkled in throughout the first act, as we see both actors show their characters’ deeper-held concerns with regards to all things around them.
Then, as the story really starts to go up a gear, those performances do too, and in a fashion that I really did not expect. While the movie explodes into life in a way that makes it absolutely thrilling, both of Close and Pryce’s performances remain consistent enough with their personalities of the first act, while still increasing their intensity as the story becomes more exciting.
That’s something that so few actors are able to do well, often giving into overacting as the story requires their performances to show more and more drama and emotion (Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf is a frustrating example), but in The Wife, both of the leads retain a strong level of assurance that means they remain very watchable and convincing as the same characters throughout, which I was hugely impressed by.
Overall, I really liked The Wife. It’s a movie that may not seem like so much at first glance, despite its strong directing and elegant style from the start, but there really is more to it than meets the eye, so if you stick with it through a slow but still engrossing first act, you’ll be in for a brilliant treat with a stunning finale that had me thoroughly entertained and captivated right to the end, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9.