The Wife is the story of Joan and Joe Castleman (Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce), who are travelling to Stockholm for Joe to receive his Nobel Peace Prize in Literature. Having met in the 1950s, Joan has spent the large part of her adult life setting aside her own ambitions to play the role of wife to a ‘great man’, culminating in years of deep-rooted love and adoration intertwined with resentment and anger. This continued and escalating tension forms the centrepiece to Björn Runge’s film – even in the most intimate and celebratory moments there is a palpable feeling of tension between Joan and Joe.
Through her performance, Close expertly communicates the complexity of her feelings, the resentment and frustration sitting so closely to her unconditional love for her husband. This slow build of intimate tension is akin to Sally Potter’s 2017 film The Party. Both explore the complexity of seemingly faultless relationships, as tension pulls at the seams of this façade. Pryce’s performance also captivates the audience, exposing the root of the film to be an in depth study of two deeply complex characters.
While Close and Pryce’s performances communicate the dynamic of this marriage with immense skill, the supporting cast adds a further level of nuance to the central character study. Jane Anderson’s writing creates individual conflicts between these characters, skilfully weaving the consequences back into the core relationship between Joe and Joan. The standout members of this supporting cast are Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) and David Castleman (Max Irons), whose performances naturally complement those of Close and Pryce.
Additionally, some of the more poignant moments of the film are accompanied with contextual flashbacks following various stages of the Castleman’s marriage. While the performances in these segments aren’t as strong as that of the main cast, they are important in highlighting and accentuating the nuances in Close’s mesmerising performance, as well as Pryce’s.
The cinematography, while subtle, communicates a great deal to the audience through framing. As the film goes on and the tensions and conflicts between characters become more apparent and intense, the still and observatory camera angles are replaced in favour of a more unsettling, shaky camera. This gives the film a much more intimate feeling; as we are sucked further into the story the camera almost becomes a character in the room, pulling the audience into the scene. In these moments the performances come to a crescendo, drowning everything else out while the audience is transfixed upon two actors in a hotel room.
The core of the film is about a strong woman who has spent years being subdued by the men in her life and in society at large, with the interplay between Pryce and Close communicating volumes of this dynamic – it would be no surprise if Close became a strong contender for an Academy Award nomination.The film is fantastic and comes highly recommended.
Image Credit: Movie DB.