It’s a surprise that Glenn Close has never won an Academy Award. She’s a great actress capable of playing a wide range of characters. They can be nurturing or unstable. Consider her work in Fatal Attraction, one of her most famous roles. And yet here in The Wife she is still fascinating in a subtle performance. In this story, she plays Joan who lives with an author named Joe with whom she is married and settled down. But a phone call informs them that he is being awarded the Nobel Prize for his book. They are asked to fly into Sweden and attend the ceremony. So the excited couple plus their son David pack up and travel to Stockholm where they are furnished with a hotel, photographer, and a lot of attendants. But why does Joan begin to lose her enthusiasm?
From here, the film gradually looks into the relationship of the family. As Joan accompanies Joe in rehearsals for the ceremony, her expressions reveal a hidden concern. During social introductions, she is cordial and pleasant on the exterior but she observes her husband with a different feeling. There is a clear explanation for this much later. Meanwhile their son David, an aspiring writer, is ill-willed towards his father due to a lack of attention towards David’s first short story. Then there are flashbacks relating to how Joan and Joe had met in their younger years and the unusual relationship they forged. All these ties come together in the end to explain the rift in the family. The narrative unfolds as if from the tip of an iceberg and then explores its buried depth. Jonathan Pryce gives an impressive performance as Joe who is blindly passionate, impatient, and a little pathetic. Max Irons plays David with a problematic appearance throughout the film. Christian Slater is also there as a persistent and conniving journalist, shameless in looking for scandals to write about in his articles. Then there’s a photographer who is a mysterious and undeveloped character in the story. She seems focused on her work but then suddenly there’s a scene to suggest otherwise. And finally in the role of the flashbacks are Annie Starke and Harry Lloyd as Joan and Joe’s younger selves. The film has the spirit of a domestic drama and it’s got the performances by Close and Pryce to back it up. There is a revelation that may come as a surprise to some viewers but acute observers may see it coming. The director is Björn Runge and the screenplay is by Jane Anderson. The Wife is about characters and interactions but Close gives a performance to make it a worthier recommendation.