Joan (Glenn Close) and Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) get the surprise of their lives when he is chosen to receive the Nobel prize for Literature. Over the course of nearly forty years, they have grown to complement each other, appearing to be a loving couple, and parents to their two children. But when they fly over to Stockholm for the prestigious event, Joan begins to reminisce about the time she met Joe as a professor of literature in 1950, and how they fell in love. Egged on by Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater), who seeks to write Joseph’s biography, she ponders the nature of their relationship and what she’s had to give up to make their marriage work.
Although it appears to have a simplistic plot at its core, ‘The Wife’ is a showcase in peeling off the narrative layers to get there. Director Björn Runge also displays how framing can tell an entire story by giving audiences the chance to read emotions from the faces of his brilliant cast. This is particularly applicable to Glenn Close. There are several instances as the camera focuses on her visage, especially when Joan Castleman contemplates the decisions she made, and you can practically see the complex series of thoughts running in her head. Little wonder that Close has been nominated, and won numerous awards for this incredible performance. Christian Slater is surprisingly sneaky as Nathanial Bone, who is a catalyst to the events that unfold. Jonathan Pryce also puts in a class act, but there’s only so much for him to do as ‘the husband’.
Jane Anderson’s screenplay intentionally orchestrates this as she puts the limelight on the female spirit. ‘The Wife’ is an examination of the adage – behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Even though the plot plays out as expected and sometimes gets too calculated, one can begin a dialogue on the reasons why the couple took certain decisions. It’s a timely discussion indeed, and if that’s not enticing enough, the masterclass on acting by Glenn Close will certainly convince you to watch ‘The Wife.