Film Review: The Wife

Director Björn Runge’s The Wife is an assured drama which plays to the strengths of its formidable lead.

Joan is the wife of revered author Joe Castleman, who is due to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. As the couple travel to Stockholm for the awards ceremony, Joan questions the choices she has made during the marriage…

Directed by Björn Runge with a screenplay by Jane Anderson, The Wife is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer. The film drip feeds information to its viewers, requesting patience as the narrative unfolds. This works to the film’s advantage; the characters are given ample space to develop before the narrative reaches its climax.

The Wife begins at a slow pace, with Anderson exploring the two protagonists and their relationship. As the film progresses, there is a slow propelling towards the awards ceremony, but nothing is rushed. Although the central cause of friction can be predicted, the film unfolds in such a manner that compels nevertheless. The protagonists are richly depicted and multi-faceted. The interspersing of flashbacks with the main strand works well, dropping hints to the reveal in an absorbing manner. When the film does reach its climax, The Wife is thrilling. The three main scenes are explosive, exhibiting great writing and steady direction.

Glenn Close delivers a masterful performance as Joan. In her husband’s shadow, Close is convincing as the dutiful wife. She portrays her character in a most convincing manner, whether knowingly flirtatious or a quiet rage that is all in the eyes and expression. Jonathan Pryce is also great as the demanding author. Christian Slater is most welcome in a small role.

The Wife is a tale of simmering resentment, expertly portrayed by Close. An exemplary performance and a consummate drama.

The Wife is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital now.

Film Review: Nymphomaniac


Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is absorbing, amusing and though-provoking cinema. Behind the rodomontade of controversy, Nymphomaniac is an excellent film.

Seligman finds Joe injured on the streets as he returns to his apartment. Inviting her in to recuperate, self-confessed nymphomaniac Joe begins to tell Seligman her story…

Nymphomaniac Volume I and Volume II are engrossing films best viewed in quick succession. The narrative framing device allows for effective storytelling. Both the storyteller Joe and her listener Seligman are interesting characters. Both bring something compelling to proceedings.

Lars von Trier’s writing in Nymphomaniac is superb. The film works as a straightforward recollection of events. In this way, it is both entertaining and reflective. Notwithstanding, with the addition of other elements, von Trier’s film delivers more. Bringing religion, mythology and mathematics in to embellish the tale adds an extra layer of depth. The interruptions of Seligman (surely a reference to the psychologist rather than a coincidence) are both humorous and insightful.

Much has been made of the prurience of this film, stoked to a certain extent by Nymphomaniac‘s memorable marketing. Whilst the film is very explicit, it is not erotic. The draw here is how the story will unfold. Volume I departs with enough of a hook to reel viewers in for the second part.

Lars von Trier makes the most of nature, as he has done in previous films. Familiar preoccupations of the writer-director are also visible here, with no less potency. Direction is thoughtful, whilst references show a level of sophistication. The use of Rammstein in the film’s opening provides a blistering introduction.

Ultimately, Nymphomaniac is an unequivocally feminist piece. That it uses explicit imagery to tell its story does not negate from the importance or strength of overall message. To a certain extent, the film acts as a riposte to criticism of Antichrist.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is most believable as Joe, as is Stacy Martin as her younger counterpart. Stellan Skarsgård is excellent, whilst Christian Slater and Jamie Bell great. Uma Thurman delivers a star turn in a small role. Shia LaBeouf is less convincing with an erratic accent and hesitant performance.

The protagonists in the film are drawn so well that the shift in these characters is subtle and credible. When the cataclysmic finale arises it is paradoxically shocking and cogent.

Nymphomaniac certainly isn’t for everyone. Nevertheless, the film proves to be provocative and entertaining viewing.

Nymphomaniac Volume I and Volume II are being screened back to back in UK cinemas for one evening only, on Saturday 22nd February 2014.

Film Review: Bullet to the Head

Bullet to the HeadBullet to the Head is a stupid film. This, however, does not mean it is not a watchable one.

When hitman Jimmy Bobo sees his partner killed, he is determined to track down the perpetrators. He forms an uneasy alliance with Taylor Kwon, a detective from Washington who is investigating the assassination. The pair both want to get to the bottom of the case, but have different ideas about delivering justice…

Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head features a very flimsy plot. Really it is an excuse for lead Sylvester Stallone to go around fighting people. The basis of the story is a befuddled corruption premise with a few minor twists. The film offers nothing particularly interesting or different.

Notwithstanding, Bullet to the Head does not drag. The film moves along at an appropriate pace, with the investigating ‘downtime’ often interspersed with action sequences. There is some comedy in Walter Hill’s film, but perhaps more unintentional humour.

The odd couple pairing of Bobo and Kwon lacks chemistry. It is quite difficult to care about these one-dimensional characters. Likewise, the villains are caricatures; seemingly a deliberate poor match for the abilities of the protagonists.

The film offers nothing to stretch Sylvester Stallone. It is rather sad to see Christian Slater reduced to the kind of role afforded to him by Bullet to the Head. Jason Momoa is akin to cardboard; he does not appear to convey a single emotion.

Bullet to the Head is by no means an action classic. Forgettable, but passable at the time of viewing.