Director: Björn Runge.
This was a film that was making a lot of noise at last year’s international film festivals, yes, 2017’s and not this year’s. Apparently a tactic in the hope of increasing Close’s chance of an Academy Award. But does her performance truly deserve a nomination, let alone an Oscar win?
It’s the fourth visualisation of Meg Wolitzer’s literary work, this one based on her sixth titular novel that was first published in 2003. We are granted an provocative, though subtle, insightful look into the working relationship of husband and wife, mostly through the narrative of the wife, as the title suggests.
Joe Castleman (Pryce), is a highly respected novelist who is chosen to receive the prestigious Nobel prize for literature, gaining a royal invitation to Stockholm to accept the award, bringing with him, his loyal and rather stoic wife, Joan Castleman (Close) and his estranged son, David (Irons); who’s aspiring to follow in his father’s footstep, seeking his absent approval.
But it’s obviously less about the narcissistic, egotistical writer and very much, more about Joan who puts up with infidelities and transgressions with her reasons leading to something much greater than herself. As the proverb says “behind every great man, is a great woman” that this story illustrates this in more than one way as it addresses the issue of gender inequality and chauvinism within the literary world and beyond.
The story and the character of Joan provokes concerning questions as we learn more about themselves, delving into their history by way of flashbacks. And it takes a good look at their martial relationships; the compromises, the sacrifices and ones own subjugation. She has given so much, more than what anyone can imagine and this pinnacle moment of their marriage is what sets it off balance, enraging a silent, and submissive fury she’s been clearly harbouring since their first encounter.
Close’s performance is amazing and she portrays Joan Castleman perfectly and without actually saying much. It’s very much like reading between the lines but you get as much from her silence and presence as you do with her articulate and eloquent dialogue. It’s as if you can see her thinking about what she’s going to say in response before the conversation has even reached it’s cue; it’s like she’s playing chess, but not necessarily to win, but definitely not to lose. However, it’s a role I can see many others portraying. Her performance is undeniably great but isn’t such the outstanding performance that makes it entirely her own. I mean, it’s not Hank’s Forrest Gump or the more recent McDormand’s Mildred; it has been rumoured McDormand was part of the original cast before dropping out to film Three Billboards. I can envision other actresses playing this role and with relative ease; not saying they would do a better job, because Close is brilliant, and is definitely one of her best performances.
As for Pryce’s performance, well, it’s quite opposite for him on my opinion and not in terms of quality. His performance is equally great and it’s good to see her in a such a larger role as oppose to the smaller parts he’s played over the recent years. I could be missing something, but I’m thinking this is his largest role since Game of Thrones and more notably, Brazil.
Supporting cast of Slater and Irons is well served, the charmer Slater being the stalkerish, unofficial biographer who’s trying to swindle as much sensitive information from the family as possible and Irons does well as the rebellious, nonchalant son that certainly has some paternal issues.
What didn’t seem to fit so well was Lloyd’s performance as the younger Joe Castleman, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s his performance or purely his stature. I found it hard to believe it was a younger Joe not really baring any resemblance to his older self. But Annie Starke provides a stunning portrayal of a younger Joan. Still not quite the believable same person, but there was something uncanny about her that was like Close for me to only discover that she is, in fact Glenn Close’s real daughter.
Runge does well to piece everything all together and making us believe that Glasgow could well be Stockholm is quite a feat for the production team. But it’s a drama, so it’s mostly close quarters and relies heavily on the characters relationships as oppose to theatrics or dramatic pieces. There’s no fancy camera work and smart arty shots which is by means a criticism because the direction works perfectly for this film. Jocelyn Pook’s score is a worthy mention too, which suits the story perfectly, sounding serious and often somber.
It’s way more than just a literary drama about literary people. It’s a brilliant relationship and character study that’s worth seeing just for the hype around Glenn Close’s performance.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 0