The Wife (2017)

It's Oscar night tomorrow —actually, it's early Monday morning here but nevermind— and since I'm going to lose one night of sleep and sit through the hostless ceremony that is going to award Bohemian Rhapsody and Roma, I figured I should also watch all the movies that split under the radar that somehow made it to the Oscars. The Wife is one of those movies as Glenn Close is up for Best Actress. 

The story follows a charismatic writer, Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), and his devoted wife, Joan (Glenn Close). When Joe is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his acclaimed body of work and they travel to Stockholm to attend the ceremony, Joan begins to question her life choices and her forty-year marriage built upon uneven compromises and sacrifices.

The biggest issue with The Wife is the story. Simple and plot-heavy at the same time, it lacks credibility, it's predictable, it doesn't always make sense, it has too many pointless subplots and a twist that couldn't have impressed me any less —women writers always had a public even in earlier years (Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Agatha Christie, to name a few), therefore Joan giving up her writing in the 1950s when she had no chance as a woman is an absolute bullshit. Sure, she probably wouldn't have had the same success as her husband, nor would it have been as easy to get published, but it sure wasn't impossible if she was as talented as she turns out to be. As a result, the story isn't never compelling —I found it to be quite boring, to be honest.

As a character study, The Wife works a bit better. Joan is the perfect example of the woman who sacrifices her life and career for the man she loves, a woman who has lived her entire life in the shadow of her successful husband. All of a sudden, she reaches her breaking point and she snaps. She is not sympathetic nor likeable but Glenn Close and her strong, compelling but not Oscar-worthy performance make you feel for her. Annie Starke —Close's real life daughter— gives an equally compelling performance as the younger version of Joan. Joe is a self-absorbed, narcissistic man addicted to the spotlight, a spotlight he does not deserve. A man who criticizes everyone in his life, from his wife to his "looking for father's approval" son, and Jonathan Pryce gives a solid performance. Christian Slater is completely wasted in the role of a Nathaniel Bone, the journalist who makes Joan begin to question her life choices, as he's nothing but a plot device.

Sony Pictures Classics
As for the direction, I'm pretty sure if someone more skilled had the job, The Wife would have been a more successful and compelling drama. The thing is that Björn Runge keeps playing the twist as if it was some big reveal or something, which it isn't as it's very clear right from the start, so the tension he tries to build never lifts off. There are also some frustrating, annoying scenes that are dragged way too long and add nothing to the film.


  1. Very nice review. I actually liked this more than I expected to. It definitely moves at a pretty slow pace, but it ended up working for me. I kinda have a soft spot for these kinds of character-based movies. I can definitely see it being too draggy though.

    1. I love character-driven movies but this just didn't work that well for me. I'm glad it worked better for you.