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Review: The Wife

One of the major winners from last year’s awards season and now available on Netflix, is The Wife one not to be missed?

The project took many years before it went into production but its star Glenn Close pushed adamantly for the story to be told, one of a wife who begins to question her choices and compromises as her and her husband (Jonathan Pryce) arrive in Stockholm, where he’ll receive a Nobel Prize for Literature while she stands solemnly by his side. Also starring: Max Irons, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd, Annie Maude Starke and Karin Franz Körlof.

Close swept up awards for this performance and deservedly so, her portrayal of Joan is so stoic and contained yet her eyes are bursting with love, regret, resentment and anger; it’s hard to look away and there are not a great deal of actresses that can reveal so much using so little. Her character is by far the most, and only, fascinating part of the story, it’s a benefit that the character of her husband Joe is so cliched and stereotypical as to not take any focus off of her. Pryce’s Joe is the classic ‘leaves his wife for a younger woman then spends their marriage repeatedly cheating on her’, even accompanied by one of the most typical and awful of American accents, that it’s sometimes unclear whether he is in fact meant to be American. Having his younger self being played by Harry Lloyd only shows further that he shouldn’t be trusted, Lloyd does not have the look of a sympathetic man, more the look of Norman Osborn crossed with Edward Nigma.

Each shot is framed perfectly to give you exactly what you need without any extraneous detail or excessive panning and edited to keep focus, at no point do you lose the intensity, each shot gives an emotion and there’s many to be had. In that sense, it’s easy to see how the story could be adapted further to the stage, it’s extremely intimate and only ever spends time with a few key characters. Even in scenes where there are others outside of that involved, the focus never leaves our two leads; one moment illustrates that perfectly of a conversation with Joan, never taking its focus off of her, hearing the other person’s words while seeing only her and gladly so because it’s a pleasure to watch Glenn Close at work. It’s hard to imagine there’s an actress out there, better than her at giving the oh so subtle but deadly ‘I will murder you’ stare without moving a muscle.

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The story is one that’s been told on countless occasions, across every media, of a wife eclipsed by her husband but you can understand the ferocity that Close had to get this particular one told because it genuinely does give you the wife’s perspective. As the story unfolds, you feel what she feels, you see everything through her eyes and even with the flashbacks to their early days, it still is almost seamless. You honestly wouldn’t think that anything new could be added to a story such as this one but The Wife does it superbly, a fresh perspective with a stellar and understated performance, you won’t want to turn it off with the amount of emotion that you know Close is holding below the surface, and you’re just waiting for her to explode.

Verdict: 8/10 | ✯✯✯✯

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