Film Review: A Good Marriage
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This week sees the release of chilling new psychological suspense thriller A Good Marriage, based on a terrifying novella by critically acclaimed horror and suspense author Stephen King.
The thriller begins with Darcy (Joan Allen) and Bob (Anthony LaPaglia) celebrating their 25th anniversary, surrounded by their congratulatory friends, family and grown-up children, all of whom are jealous of their ‘good marriage’. This happy beginning brings with it a sense of foreboding, that this marriage being celebrated may not stay happy for long. The couple return from their celebrations to the affluent, suburban area in which they live, where a notorious local serial killer ‘Beadie’ is on the loose; hunting, torturing and murdering innocent young women and then tauntingly posting their ID cards to the police after their bodies have been discovered. Darcy is un-phased when Beadie is mentioned on the news, but we, the audience, see a suspicious stranger following her and assume her to be Beadie’s next victim.
However, whilst searching for something trivial in her husband’s garage, Darcy makes the unexpected and unwanted discovery of the ID cards of recently murdered Beadie victim, Marjorie Duvall. Darcy is in emotional turmoil and is conflicted about whether to confront Bob about her discovery; for fear that she will be his next victim, or to pretend that she’s non-the-wiser and continue their marriage but live with the knowledge that her husband committed, and may continue to commit, unspeakable atrocities. Bob returns unexpectedly early from a business trip, notices the box is out of place and thus confronts Darcy and confesses... but what’s next for Darcy and Bob’s ‘good marriage’ now that Darcy knows too much?
The plot, as you would expect from a Stephen King thriller, includes numerous unexpected twists, such as; who the suspicious stranger following Darcy turns out to be, and how Darcy copes with knowing her husband is a serial killer.
This thriller is clever because although we know Beadie’s identity from quite early on, the film is focussed from Darcy’s point-of-view, so we’re constantly left wondering what Bob/Beadie is up to; whether he is continuing to murder young women or whether he has changed his ways. What we know about Beadie and his movements is the same as what Darcy knows... so we share her fear of the unknown and that’s what makes A Good Marriage such a satisfying, nail-biting watch.
As we’re seeing events purely from Darcy’s view, we never know what Bob is planning for her, whether he’s secretly in the house or whether he’ll ‘surprise’ her by coming home early from a business trip. This puts us constantly on edge as viewers, as we’re made to feel just as vulnerable and unaware as Darcy does - making it even more of a suspenseful, gripping, edge-of-your-seat film.
Bob is such a terrifying character as it is unexpected that he will be the film’s evil antagonist. On the surface he’s a well-respected, hard-working businessman, who loves and respects his wife and children... so that makes the discovery of his abominable deeds even more horrifying; in that he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is a terrifying Jekyll and Hyde-esque character; he, when confessing his crimes to Darcy, separates his ‘alter-ego’ Beadie - the embodiment of his homicidal urges, from himself to prove that he can overcome and control ‘him’. At the beginning of the film, we wouldn’t think to accuse Bob of being Beadie, instead, we’d imagine Bob to be the hero of the film; as we suspect the suspicious man following Darcy in his car to be Beadie, and thus hope for Bob to save the day.
The portrayal of the strong, respected mother and wife, Darcy Anderson, by three-time Academy Award nominee Joan Allen, is praise-worthy, as she portrays brilliantly the personality change that Darcy reluctantly undergoes throughout the film. This spectrum of emotions and range of personality traits that Allen brilliantly performs begins with Darcy being the cheeky, confident and care-free wife that we initially connect with and enjoy watching from the on-set.
This then subtly changes; after Darcy’s unfortunate uncovering of her husband’s secret, to her being in emotional turmoil, constant paranoia and undergoing foreboding hallucinations that leave her fear-stricken. Joan portrays brilliantly every personality trait of Darcy’s – from her seductiveness around Bob at the beginning, to her motherly worry about her daughter throughout and her overwhelming fear for her own life after being confronted by Bob.
Australian actor and Golden Globe winner, Anthony LaPaglia, plays a character of contrasts also. He successfully makes us believe Bob to be just a sweet husband, well-respected businessman and valued member of the local community... at the beginning. His successful portrayal of this made Darcy’s discovery; of his actually being an unhinged, secretly monstrous, human being, even worse. We successfully loathed and feared his character.
Overall this film is a brilliantly chilling and tense, nail-biting watch... especially when Darcy is home alone at night and we don’t know where Bob is (typical horror/thriller film scenario). Joan Allen gives a strong performance as the leading actress and Anthony LaPaglia’s loathable, homicidal husband character gives us the chills. This film is a perfect Stephen King thriller.
A Good Marriage is released on UK digital and VOD platforms on Monday 13th April.