Although completed last year, the rumour mill tells us that The Wife was held back from cinemas until now in order to give Glenn Close a better shot at an Oscar nomination for her performance as Joan Castleman, the wife of highly respected author Joe, as they travel to Sweden where Joe is receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. If true, that decision may prove fruitful as Close is stunningly nuanced in her performance as a woman who is repressed, angry and frustrated, all while keeping a lid on the simmering tensions in her marriage, bound by a failing sense of duty. Every glance, turn and smile Close gives exudes power; an actor at the top of her game, it proves impossible to take your eyes off her.
The snowy backdrops of Stockholm in the winter provide pleasingly crisp vistas, and the film’s DoP Ulf Brantås and director Björn Runge know exactly how to make their home country look glamorous; whether it’s snow-driven roads or dark wood interiors with roaring fires, there’s no doubt about the film’s Scandinavian influences.
The storytelling does, unfortunately, suffer from an overuse of time-consuming flashback scenes, and the ending (both the climactic final scene between Joan and Joe, and the last “twist” in their tale) is very predictable. The supporting cast don’t give much to go on, with Christian Slater and Max Irons unable to hold their own against the magisterial talents of Close.
The Wife provides a rich platform for Glenn Close to really show just how nuanced and subtle a great actor can be, and she very much deserves any and all nominations that come her way. Although at times let down by its pacing and storytelling, this film shows a clear sense of purpose and gives its star plenty of space to shine.
CAST: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons
DIRECTOR: Björn Runge
WRITER: Jane Anderson, based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer
SYNOPSIS: Trapped in a long marriage of hurt and oppression, Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) finds herself at breaking point on a trip to Sweden where her lauded author husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.