In life we tend to focus on the celebrities that surround us: politicians, actors, athletes and artists. Our attention is pulled towards these entities because the spotlight is shined upon them; rarely is it ever focused on their significant other. The person in the shadows that we have no ounce of knowledge as to who they are and more importantly do we even care? In director Tom Dolby’s new film The Artist’s Wife we watch the wife of renowned painter Richard Smythson, played by Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The Burbs), have to endure the knowledge of her husband developing Alzheimer’s disease. In a film that has multiple story elements the focus is strictly put on Claire, played by Lena Olin (Hunters, Alias).
Dolby treats the film as an all-encompassing view of Claire’s story. We see elements of her marriage to Richard and her desire to paint again but the overall story is the love she has for her husband. Each action by Claire is in response to wanting to upkeep Richard’s overall quality of life: organizing an upcoming showcase of Richard’s latest work, mending the broken relationship between her step daughter and Richard and lastly being there for Richard at his darkest times. The film’s story feels scattered but in comparison to how we all treat our own ongoing issues it is somewhat true to life. In this form of storytelling we are given an insight into a multitude of emotions Claire is going through but at the same time I would have preferred a more formal linear style that focused on Claire and Richard’s relationship. There are glimpses of the love they share and the difficulties in dealing with Richard’s condition but I feel more could have been added.
The big hurdle Claire needs to help Richard overcome is finishing his works for his upcoming showcase. At the film’s conclusion I felt Claire truly loved everything about Richard, the good and definitely the bad, and her selfless acts proved that. I feel there was room for Claire to become more self-aware, we see glimpses of her struggling to maintain the grasp of her own wants and needs but I do not feel anything came from it. As dynamic an element was Richard’s daughter Angela, played by Juliet Rylance (Perry Mason), I felt the involvement of her nanny Danny, played by Avan Jogia (Zombieland: Double Tap), was a pointless addition that did not add anything to the overall story other than a cheap sex fling. As strong as Olin’s performance is a heavy hearted and conflicted Claire there is no much against Dern. Dern has a quiet dominance whenever on screen and is captivating in his “good moments” where you get a glimpse of this gently soul that has a true love deep inside; with an equally sorrowful feeling as we watch him slip away.
Dolby shines a light on an individual no one would have looked twice at. It is through Claire’s strength, support and love for Richard that he is even able to be portrayed as he has and still is. No one thinks twice of the struggle one puts into their significant other but in this instance we see what true love is regardless of the outcome or situation because who are we as a person if we are not there to lift and support those we love.
2.5 out of 5
Film will be available via streaming platforms Friday 9/25 HERE