Jean (Brosnahan) is a suburban, 70s housewife with no cooking skills – barely managing torn eggs and blackened toast – endlessly waiting for her thieving husband, Eddie (a brief appearance by Bill Heck), to return. There’s nothing innocent about Eddie: leather jacket, greased-back hair, looking like a wannabe Brando. Jean clearly loves the fruits of his illegal labours, wearing posh gowns and wandering about a large house.
One day, Eddie arrives with a baby. No explanation why. Jean immediately takes to motherhood.
The rest of the film unfolds like a better thriller’s happening elsewhere, as Eddie suddenly goes missing and Jane goes on the run with the baby. It’s an inverted, feministic structure: re-examining the wives/partners of male protagonists, who’ve often been built as one-dimensional extensions of their men. This road-less-travelled is intriguing and invigorating… well, at first.
She’s helped along by an old colleague of Eddie’s, Cal (Arinzé Kene) – a Black guy trying/failing to be an emotionless bodyguard, struggling to blend into a whitely suspicious environment. The circumstances of Eddie’s disappearance exist in an uncertain vacuum, Jane only gaining hints and hearsay as to what he’s done. Her obedient confusion, following and stumbling around in the dark, forms much of the film’s tension. That, and taking care of a baby.
Strangely, despite the chance to show the possible layers beneath this convenient character-type, Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz don’t reach for much nuance either. As Jean's driven to different locations, she’s told to stay put. And for the most part, that’s exactly what she does. Her days repeat and repeat in the same process, day after day, looking after the baby and barely sleeping. Heavy waves of nothing.
When something finally does happen, initiated by unfamiliar creaks and speeding cars, it’s all over quite quickly. All the thrills belong to the movie you don’t see. Although Hart carefully captures that anxiety of the unknown and that sense of female subjugation, I’m Your Woman stretches that atmosphere so thin that it rips apart in the first hour.
This would be somewhat forgivable if it were 90 minutes or under, but the film plods along for two lethargic hours. And generally, Jean doesn’t take an active role in her own story, Cal pushing and pulling her in the right directions. Thankfully, the baby provides some exhaustive conflict, but that brilliant dynamic isn’t utilised to its full potential. Hart and Horowitz don’t even see much humour in the situation.
While watching, this critic was reminded of the much-superior Steve McQueen movie Widows – another inverted crime drama told from the wives’ perspectives. But whereas those women take their husbands’ failed narratives to supply their own success, Jean just waits and waits and waits for her man to come back. I’m Your Woman holds some academic intrigue, but it’s direly executed.
I'm Your Woman is out now in cinemas and available on Amazon Prime from Friday 11 December
|What||I'm Your Woman, Amazon Prime review|
11 Dec 20 – 11 Dec 21, ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
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