Joan Castleman (Close) is a perfectly dedicated wife who is adorned with intelligence and striking beauty. He has been married for almost forty years to the charismatic Joe (Jonathan Pryce), who is a very popular and respected writer. Because of him, she sacrificed her own talent, her dreams and ambitions, she was always ready to compromise and she went through his infidelities. However, the moment when her husband receives the Nobel Prize for literature becomes her breaking point and she faces the biggest sacrifice of her life and the secret of his career…
At first glance, Joan and Joe complement each other perfectly. He is relaxed, while she is elegant, restrained and elegant. While he enjoys his popularity and public events, she does well in the role of the wife of such a man, and for that role she uses her charm, diplomacy and intelligence. However, when we take a closer look, we notice that there is something a little strange in their relationship. First of all, it refers to her views of Joe, when he talks about himself or his work. It seems to us that she doesn’t like that she’s somehow in the background or maybe it’s all a product of a long period of time they spent together.
The depiction of Joanna’s face takes up a good part of the duration of the film and we clearly see that something is wrong. Those details would go unnoticed in a larger group of people, because her husband attracts attention. Joanna’s appearance of admiration changes after a while, but it can be interpreted as an expression of fatigue because he has been listening to his narcissistic boasting for so many years or because they are different types of people. It is clear that Joan loves him and that they lead a beautiful life together – they have a house on the sea, two grown children and are expecting a grandson, but it is evident that there is something behind its facade.
That facade is slowly starting to fall when the family arrives in Stockholm for the Nobel Prize. Jane Anderson’s screenplay, based on Meg Volitzer’s book, gives us clear indications somewhere in the middle of the film that not everything is as it is presented – nothing explicit, but as a suggestion or a mild accusation by a supporting character. Although the story is essentially a mystery, the authors intrigue us with the dynamics of Joan and Joe’s marriage by what holds them together and how easily they can separate. There are often no simple agreements or solutions in marriage, Joan and Joe have one, and within that agreement, it is not determined whether she will like it or not. Also, Joan herself is a big puzzle.
Glen Close’s performance is a perfect display of restraint, not because of the physical nature of her heroine, but because of the presentation of the above-mentioned facade for the people around her. The actress knows exactly when to give in, when to allow a part of her frustration, jealousy, anger or something else to break through that facade and for how long. In addition to restraint, she also evokes mystery, because we find out the truth about marriage at the end of the film, but her Joan is as much a mystery to us as it was at the very beginning. It would be a sin not to mention the old master of acting Jonathan Price in the quality presentation of her husband Joe.