A Good Wife (Sundance Review)
The saying goes that time heals all wounds, but in A Good Wife time also uncovers new ones. For middle-aged housewife Milena (writer/director Mirjana Karanovic, making her first feature), life is going well. Her eldest daughter is a successful artist, her two younger children are doing great in school, and her husband Vlada (Boris Isakovic) makes sure she lives a comfy life. When Milena cleans around the house one day, she discovers a VHS tape containing footage of her husband committing war crimes during his days as a soldier. A disturbed Milena puts the tape back, telling no one of what she saw, but word starts getting around that the authorities might have already started investigating Vlada, and the threat of his arrest throws Milena’s happy life into turmoil. At the same time, a check-up at the doctor’s leads to the discovery of a large lump in one of her breasts, and despite Milena’s attempts to avoid getting it checked further, it’s clear that her life is about to go through some major changes.
Karanovic, an accomplished Serbian actress who’s been working for over three decades, shows she has plenty of talent behind the camera as well, directing in a subdued manner that places characters and themes at the forefront. The same can’t necessarily be said about her screenplay, which leans on some heavy-handed metaphors and familiar ideas that can’t help but feel stale. Karanovic makes the link between Milena’s tumor and her willful ignorance of the past impossible to miss, and even with the unique angle of the Yugoslav Wars, watching Milena’s growing awareness of her own domestication as more of a self-imposed prison sentence isn’t especially exciting. But the screenplay’s staleness only ends up being a slight bother, as Karanovic’s direction and captivating performance keep things from falling into tedium. A Good Wife has its flaws, but as a directorial debut, it shows enough promise to hope that it won’t be the only time Karanovic takes a seat in the director’s chair.