The Wife (4 stars)

The Wife

Glenn Close is magnificent in a gripping marital discord drama, co-starring Jonathan Pryce

The tradition of thanking one's spouse when accepting an accolade becomes quite the provocation in this gripping marital discord drama, adapted by Emmy-winning writer Jane Anderson from Meg Wolitzer's novel. Built around a magnificently contained performance from Glenn Close that bristles with resentment, it sees a relationship unravel in tandem with the audience's assumptions.

Swedish director Björn Runge is largely working on home turf in a story that follows acclaimed American novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) as he travels to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. By his side is stalwart spouse Joan (Close); although the mother of Joe's children is a 'kingmaker' by her own admission, the strain of living in the author's shadow, tending to his myriad needs and making small-talk as he basks in outpourings of adoration is starting to show.

That there's more to this woman than supportive housewife and muse is evident in Close's alert, intelligent performance (rendered all the more powerful because we know the ferocity the actress is capable of unleashing) and Joan's own literary talents are revealed to us in flashback. Meanwhile, Joe's fragile ego and failings as a husband gradually drift to the fore. And Christian Slater adds a lighter note as the amusingly assiduous Nathaniel Bone, who's writing a biography of Joe, whether Joe likes it or not.

If the flashbacks are significantly less persuasive than the main narrative (Close's daughter Annie Starke plays the younger Joan but her performance is, by comparison, a touch flat) they do at least form a crucial part of the puzzle. Although set in 1992, with time spent in the 50s and 60s, The Wife crackles with contemporary angst, with lines bemoaning old men declaring the genius of other old men, while first impressions are left in tatters in a film that delights in letting the scales slowly fall from our eyes.

General release from Fri 28 Sep.

The Wife

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • Sweden / UK / US
  • 1h 40min
  • Directed by: Björn Runge
  • Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater,

Joan (Close) is travelling to Stockholm with her novelist husband Joe (Pryce), who’s to receive the Nobel Prize. This adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel is built around a magnificently contained and alert performance from Close, bristling with resentment in the shadow of her needy husband.