Directed by Bjorn Runge
Country: Sweden / UK / other
Bjorn Runge’s The Wife is a mature, if reserved drama that evolves at a steady pace without that dramatic punch that would make it memorable. Jane Anderson (It Could Happen To You) wrote it based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, in a fair attempt to describe a few acerbic days in the life of an American couple shaded by a public lie and a mix of sacrifice, ego, and surreptitious resentment.
Joan Archer (Glenn Close) is a gifted writer discouraged by the prejudice of the editors against women. She has been dedicating all her life to her husband and former teacher, Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), whose success depends exclusively on her skills. John is informed by phone that he is the new Nobel Prize in Literature. While he celebrates effusively like a child, she acts far more reserved and slightly distant, seeming a bit disturbed with the communication.
Through flashbacks, we learn the shocking truth. She was, in fact, the true author of all his novels. The narcissistic Joe becomes overwhelmed with the success, whereas Joan, devastated inside, tries to deal with the unbearable pain of living in the shadow for so many years. The couple heads to Stockholm, where the Nobel Prize ceremony takes place, accompanied by their son David (Max Irons), who also aspires to be a writer.
Once there, things quickly become a nightmare with Joe flirting with a young photographer, and Joan being troubled by Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), an impertinent biographer who suspects she is the real talent of the household.
Despite the potentiality, this embittered love tale and domestic drama film never exploded because neither of its characters exploded when they needed and were supposed to. In a number of times, I wished the story were tempered with a bit more sarcasm. Showing some tackiness in the maneuvers, the Swedish director only gets the film flowing because of the mesmeric leading performances. Ms. Close, in particular, a six-time Academy Award-nominated actress, is irreproachable in the role of an emotionally hurt giver who refuses to play the supportive wife any longer. It is thanks to her that The Wife remains fairly acceptable.