The Wife (2017 film)

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The Wife
The Wife (2017 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Björn Runge
Produced by
  • Rosalie Swedlin
  • Meta Louise Foldager
  • Piers Tempest
  • Piodor Gustafsson
  • Claudia Bluemhube
Screenplay by Jane Anderson
Based on The Wife
by Meg Wolitzer
Music by Jocelyn Pook
Cinematography Ulf Brantås
Edited by Lena Runge
  • Anonymous Content
  • Meta Film
  • Tempo Productions
  • Silver Reel
  • Spark Film and Television
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • 12 September 2017 (2017-09-12) (TIFF)
  • 17 August 2018 (2018-08-17) (United States)
  • 28 September 2018 (2018-09-28) (United Kingdom)
Running time
100 minutes
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • United States[1]
Language English
Box office $17.1 million[2]

The Wife is a 2017 drama film directed by Björn Runge and written by Jane Anderson, based on the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer. It stars Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater, and follows a wife who questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, who is set to receive the Nobel prize in Literature.

The Wife premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2017,[3] and was theatrically released in the United States on 17 August 2018 by Sony Pictures Classics. Close received widespread critical acclaim and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress for her performance, and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress and Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.


This plot description is chronological, although major parts of the film are told in flashback.

In 1958, Joan Archer (Annie Starke) meets Joseph Castleman (Harry Lloyd), a handsome young married professor at a women-only college. Although already an accomplished (if unpublished) writer, Joan is awed by Joseph's force of personality and advice that "a writer must write". Joan meets a published alumni authoress (Elizabeth McGovern), whose cynical views on opportunities for female writers disheartens Joan. Two years later, Joseph has been fired for having an affair with Joan, his marriage is failing, and his first attempt at writing a novel turns out very poor.

Joan, a secretary at a publishing house, observes how the all-male editors dismiss women writers. When Joan criticizes Joseph's work, he threatens to end his relationship with her, claiming she cannot love "a hack". Joan agrees to fix Joseph's novel for him. The work, titled The Walnut, is published and becomes a bestseller.

By 1968, Joseph and Joan are living in a large seaside home in Connecticut. Joan is hard at work writing a novel, to be published under Joseph's name, while Joseph supports her by cooking, cleaning, and caring for their first child, David (Max Irons). As Joseph and Joan converse, it is apparent that Joan's novel is a reflection of their life together, which bores Joan. A narcissist, over the next four decades Joseph has several adulterous affairs, and tells everyone that Joan "does not write".

By 1992, an elderly Joseph (Jonathan Pryce) has become a celebrated author. He wins the Nobel prize in Literature, although Joan (Glenn Close) seems less than happy about the honor. David, who idolizes his father, seeks Joseph's critique of and approval for his first short story, unaware that Joan has written all Joseph's books. Joseph, Joan, and David fly to Stockholm as Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), a biographer with a taste for scandal, tries to insinuate himself into the Castlemans' lives. Joan's unhappiness worsens as adulation is heaped on Joseph. His attempts to publicly thank her for supporting him only embitter her further.

Nathaniel, sensing Joan's emotional state, induces her to talk with him over drinks and says that he knows that Joan has ghostwritten a major portion or even all of each of Joseph's novels. Joan does not admit the truth, but Nathaniel is convinced by their conversation that he is correct. Meanwhile, Joseph tries to seduce a beautiful young photographer who is assigned to him. Joseph is unable to consummate the affair due to his cardiovascular disease. Joseph accuses Joan of abandoning him, while Joan expresses her outrage over Joseph's attempted affair. The argument ceases when they learn that their daughter Susannah (Alix Wilton Regan) has given birth to their grandson.

The night of the Nobel Prize ceremony, David confronts his parents after being told by Nathaniel that Joan is the only writer in the family. Joseph and Joan deny everything. At the ceremony and banquet which follows, Joan becomes increasingly upset by the accolades showered on Joseph. She flees and Joseph follows her. He demands that she take his Nobel Prize, but she refuses. At their hotel, Joan tells Joseph she is divorcing him. They argue violently, and Joseph has a heart attack. Prostrate on the bed, he begs for Joan's love, and she tells him she loves him; he replies, "You're such a good liar," and dies moments later.

On the airplane back to the United States, Nathaniel offers his condolences to Joan. She tells him that if he tries to print anything that undermines Joseph's reputation as a writer, she will sue him. David overhears her. Joan says that she will tell David and his sister the truth when they get home.



On 16 May 2014, it was reported that Glenn Close would star in an adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel The Wife. The film was directed by Björn Runge and written by Jane Anderson.[4] On 30 January 2015, Frances McDormand, Logan Lerman, Brit Marling, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater were announced as having also been cast.[5] On 19 October 2016, Pryce and Slater's involvement was confirmed, and Elizabeth McGovern, Max Irons, and Close's daughter Annie Starke joined the cast, playing the roles originally set with McDormand, Lerman, and Marling, respectively; Harry Lloyd was also added.[6] Close approached Gary Oldman for the part of Joe Castleman but he was unavailable for the role. The Wife shot scenes in Glasgow,[7] Edinburgh, and Arbigland Estate in Dumfries.[8]


Box office

As of 20 January 2019, The Wife has grossed $8.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $8.6 million in other territories, for a total worldwide of $17.1 million.[2]

In its first weekend of limited release, The Wife grossed $111,137 from four theaters, for an average of $27,784, the best of the weekend.[9] It expanded to 18 theaters in its second weekend, making $212,714.[10]

Critical response

Glenn Close' performance as Joan Castleman garnered acclaim with many reviewers citing it as her best performance in years.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 84% based on 185 reviews, and an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Wife relies on the strength of Glenn Close's performance to drive home the power of its story—and she proves thoroughly, grippingly up to the task."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]

Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film four out of five stars, calling Close's acting a "tour-de-force," and saying she "takes it to the next level with a powerfully implosive performance that doubles as an accumulation of details that define a marriage. She never telegraphs Joan’s feelings, letting them unravel slowly as we watch her attend parties as a buildup to the big night."[13] The chief film critic for The Observer Mark Kermode described the movie as a "Stockholm syndrome with a twist",[14] while Glenn Close, interviewed by Robbie Collin for Irish Independent, described it as "part-period piece, part-love story, part-Bergmanesque drama—so much so the latter that it could have been called Scenes from a Marriage."[15] Citing the screening coordinator Peggy Siegal, Bill McCuddy of the Gold Derby called The Wife "the perfect '#MeToo' film" and defined it as Oscar bait.[16]

San Diego Reader writer Scott Marks gave the film one out of five stars and criticized the film's simplicity, writing: "It might not have been so bad had the road to the big reveal been paved with insight and originality, but other than the performances, there is nothing here audiences haven't seen more times than they have their own feet."[17] Writing for Metro, Richard von Busack criticized the films ideological agenda writing: "What makes The Wife insufferable soap is the masochistic insistence that the men are all crushers, and that that's all that's possible for them to do."[18]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
AACTA International Awards January 4, 2019 Best Actress – International Glenn Close Nominated [19]
Academy Awards February 24, 2019 Best Actress Pending
Alliance of Women Film Journalists January 20, 2019 Best Actress Pending [20]
Actress Defying Age and Ageism Pending
British Academy Film Awards February 10, 2019 Best Actress in a Leading Role Pending [21]
Columbus Film Critics Association Awards January 3, 2019 Best Actress Nominated [22]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 13, 2019 Best Actress Won [23]
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 17, 2018 Best Actress Nominated [24]
Film by the Sea The Wife Best Film and Literature Nominated
Florida Film Critics Circle December 21, 2018 Best Actress Nominated [25]
Gotham Awards November 26, 2018 Best Actress Nominated [26]
Golden Globe Awards January 6, 2019 Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Won [27]
Hollywood Film Awards November 4, 2018 Best Actress Won [28]
Houston Film Critics Society January 3, 2019 Best Actress Nominated [29]
Independent Spirit Awards February 23, 2019 Best Female Lead Pending [30]
London Film Critics' Circle January 20, 2019 Actress of the Year Nominated [31]
New Mexico Film Critics Association December 9, 2018 Best Actress Won [32]
Palm Springs International Film Festival January 3, 2019 Icon Award Won [33]
San Diego Film Critics Society December 10, 2018 Best Actress Won [34]
Satellite Awards February 17, 2019 Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama Won [35]
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 27, 2019 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Pending [36]
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association December 16, 2018 Best Actress Nominated [37]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 3, 2018 Best Actress Nominated [38]
Women Film Critics Circle December 11, 2018 The Invisible Woman Award Won [39]
Women's Image Network Awards February 22, 2019 Best Film Actress Pending [40]
Best Film Written By a Woman Jane Anderson Pending


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  2. ^ a b "The Wife (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  3. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (25 July 2017). "Toronto Film Festival 2017 Unveils Strong Slate". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  4. ^ McNary, Dave (16 May 2014). "Glenn Close Heading to Sweden to Star in 'The Wife'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. ^ Barraclough, Leo (30 January 2015). "Berlin: Frances McDormand, Brit Marling, Christian Slater Join 'The Wife'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
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  13. ^ Travers, Peter (14 August 2018). "The Wife Review: Glenn Close's Spouse Is Mad as Hell in High-Lit Relationship Drama". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  14. ^ Kermode, Mark (30 September 2018). "The Observer—The New Review—Stockholm syndrome with a twist". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  15. ^ Collin, Robbie (7 October 2018). "'My childhood gave me a kind of PTSD'—Glenn Close". Irish Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  16. ^ McCuddy, Bill (29 July 2018). "Glenn Close scores Oscar buzz for The Wife at private Hamptons screening". Gold Derby. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  17. ^ Marks, Scott. "The Wife". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  18. ^ von Busack, Richard (29 August 2018). "Review: The Wife". Metro. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  19. ^ "AACTA International Awards: 'Roma' Takes Best Film & Director; 'The Favourite' Also A Double Winner". Deadline Hollywood. January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  20. ^ "2018 EDA Award Nominees". Alliance of Women Film Journalists. December 18, 2018. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  21. ^ "'The Favourite' Dominates BAFTA Nominations 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. January 9, 2019. Archived from the original on January 9, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  22. ^ "Awards 2018r". COFCA. January 4, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  23. ^ Johnson, Zach (December 10, 2018). "Critics' Choice Awards 2019: The Complete List of Nominations". E!. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  24. ^ French, Alan (December 17, 2018). "Dallas Fort Worth Critics Association Winners – 'A Star Is Born' Finally Grabs Gold". Awards Circuit. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  25. ^ "'THE FAVOURITE' LEADS 2018 FLORIDA FILM CRITICS AWARDS NOMINATIONS". Florida Film Critics Circle. December 19, 2018. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
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  27. ^ Staff, THR (December 6, 2018). "Golden Globes Nominations: 'Vice' Leads With 6, 'Versace' Tops TV With 4". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  28. ^ "The 22nd Annual 'Hollywood Film Awards®' Marked The Launch Of Awards Season With A Star-Studded Evening". Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Film Awards. November 4, 2018. Archived from the original on November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  29. ^ Roberts, James (January 4, 2019). "THE FAVOURITE WINS BIG AT 12TH ANNUAL HOUSTON FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS". Glide Magazine. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  30. ^ "34th Film Independent Spirits Nominations Announced" (PDF). Los Angeles: Independent Spirit Awards. November 15, 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 17, 2018. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
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  35. ^ "'A Star Is Born,' 'Roma,' and 'Beale Street' Win Big at the Satellite Awards". Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  36. ^ Patrick Hipes (December 12, 2018). "SAG Awards Nominations: 'A Star Is Born', 'Mrs. Maisel', 'Ozark' Lead Way – The Full List". Deadline.
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  40. ^ "Women's Image Awards nominations: 'Mary Queen of Scots,' 'Little Women' lead". Gold Derby. December 11, 2018. Retrieved December 22, 2018.

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