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The Wife review - a captivating story of regret, love and change

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Verdict: Powerful, tense, agonising and totally worth a watch. 

Directed by the Swedish director Björn Runge and adapted from the novel The Wife, written by Meg Wolitzer, this drama is about regret, love (especially the lack of it) and change. It stars Glenn Close as Joan, the selfless wife of acclaimed writer Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), and many critics have described Close's performance as the best in her career.

Joan Castleman is a woman who devoted her whole life to her husband’s desire to be published as a writer, compromising her own talent and passion for writing. A call to Joe Castleman confirming his winning of the Nobel prize of Literature is the beginning of a war between this couple, united by their passion for writing and separated by everything else.

The recognition for Close is totally deserved. Joan is a very intense, complex character, full of regret, and Close plays her effortlessly. From the day of the call until the much awaited award night in Stockholm, the audience can see how repressed Joan is - behind her half smile is the potential to grow wings and take off, but she can’t. She always feels forced to agree to her husband’s demands, to be a decorative piece in ceremonies, to listen to her husband being complimented by the most well-regarded and talented people in the industry.

Increasingly suffocated and exhausted of faking smiles next to her husband, the audience learns Joan's secret - she has spent her whole life writing the novel her husband is being awarded for, and all the others, while Joe only edited them.

The contrast between selfishness and selflessness are very present in these two characters. The Wife is the kind of drama that is far more than just sad: it portrays a compelling, agonising story of leaving everything behind for love and letting that slowly destroy you.

Close’s immense talent is crucial to this film being the success that it is, and all the fervid emotions were there, throughout the tragedy. More than her lines, it's her expressions that determine our understanding of the story. But Jonathan Pryce also deserves appreciation. However hard to be complimentary to his character, it would be unfair not to mention how this actor perfectly portrays a selfish, narcissistic, emotionless man whose desire for achievement and recognition go far beyond his care for any member of his family.

Despite the obvious drama and inexplicable melancholy that the audience feels, this film also has surprisingly funny scenes. It requires a certain amount of wisdom to be able to include more relaxed moments in such a heavy story, and these moments of levity are beautifully included in the piece.

Centring around literature and female empowerment, there are many mentions of the fact that it was, and perhaps it is still a reality today, much harder for women to be self-proclaimed, successful writers. However, this message can be adapted to all walks of life, which makes it incredibly relatable and therefore more touching.

There is another key presence in the film: Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), a writer who desperately follows the Castleman family everywhere with the aim of writing Joe’s biography. Without giving too much away, his presence sparks a truly unpredictable ending.

Despite the simplicity of the story, the emotional complexity of the characters and the outstanding performances of the actors make The Wife stand out as a strikingly powerful film of self-discovery and encouragement.

The Wife releases in UK cinemas on September 28th.

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