The Wife opens on Joan Castleman waking up in the wee hours of the morning to find her husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce), munching on an unhealthy snack. She reprimands him, telling him to go to sleep. But he can’t because he’s just so nervous for a particular phone call. To help him fall asleep, he suggests they have sex and, as Joan protests, he says that she can just lie there. What a realistic and uncomfortable look at married life. The Wife aims to expose these moments found in long term relationships and how they force women to assume a stereotypical role of caregiver, while also stifling them.
Joe was waiting for a phone call to tell him that he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is elated at the news and so is Joan, at least on the surface. Following the news is a flurry of parties where Joe is the center of attention, with Joan flitting on the periphery, taking care of everything, hiding from the spotlight. But there is something inside of Joan that is hesitant about this news, a tension that is building inside of her with each camera flash, compliment, and toast to Joe. As they travel to Sweden for the award presentation, the tension builds and builds and builds as Joan becomes a glorified coat rack. Adding to the tension is biographer Nathaniel Bone, played by a sleazy Christian Slater, who is poking the fire burning behind Joan’s eyes. Joan is done being subservient to her husband and having her creativity stifled. But can she break free from the role she has so long been assigned to?