A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Winning a Nobel Prize is the pinnacle of many fields and that is clearly the case for Joseph Castleman, a celebrated writer who has just discovered he is slated to receive the award for literature and will be travelling all expenses paid to Stockholm to attend the lavish awards ceremony. His wife, Joan, listens in on the call and seems as delighted as he is, but there’s something under her smiling exterior that suggests that everything isn’t quite as it seems and ‘The Wife’ sets out to explore this over the course of its runtime. The prize may be going to Joseph (Jonathan Pryce) but this film is all about Joan (Glenn Close), and we follow her journey on the trip as secrets start to spill out and their marriage of 30 years starts to unravel.
As the Castleman’s arrive in Stockholm, the various pre-events start to bring past resentments to the fore, aided by an unauthorised biographer (Christian Slater) who lurks in the shadows, popping up at inopportune moments to gain information and push buttons. The film uses flashbacks to fill in the gaps from the past, which are informative and probably necessary, but they aren’t as engaging as the events in the present and the film loses a bit of momentum when it goes back in time. That is partly because of how magnetic Glenn Close is and this is one of her finest performances in her illustrious career. Her performance is mostly internalised and she conveys this inner turmoil with a subtle glance or change in expression, and half the joy of ‘The Wife’ is in focusing on every aspect of her wonderful display. Close will rightly get all the praise but Jonathan Pryce is also excellent as her husband, playing Castleman as a man who can be obnoxious, narcissistic and arrogant yet also charming, often simultaneously. Despite his flaws we can see why Joan fell in love with him and why she sticks by him and these performances make the scenes when things come to a head all the more powerful.
‘The Wife’ is a terrific film that uses an event that should be the highlight of a person’s career to explore the secrets hidden within a marriage and what people will put up with in the name of children, family and retaining the status quo. Bolstered by phenomenal work by Glenn Close, this is an excellent piece of filmmaking from Björn Runge.
Directed By: Björn Runge
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Annie Starke, Harry Lloyd, Max Irons and Elizabeth McGovern