The Artist’s Wife

In Films by Samuel Love

Tom Dolby’s The Artist’s Wife often comes across as a film desperately trying to cross every single cliché off the ‘Oscar bait’ bingo card. 

Dealing with the wife of a renowned artist recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before his final show, the powerful drama deals with a lot of themes that have certainly been covered before – and better – by many other films. Just this year, Florian Zeller’s Alzheimer’s drama The Father has been a hit on the awards circuit while last year saw Glenn Close pick up a stream of awards for her performance in The Wife. The result of this familiarity with superior films means The Artist’s Wife pales in comparison and feels disappointingly like a cinematic cover band trying to play all of the hits of the genre.

That’s not to say the film is particularly bad. The ever-incredible Bruce Dern is his usual commanding self as the titular artist, while Lena Olin excels as the wife who we learn has had to put her own artistic potential to one side as she existed in the shadow of her renowned husband (the exact plot of the aforementioned The Wife). But so many of the narrative beats here are so fresh in our memory from previous films that it’s hard not to compare them, and ultimately feel more favourably toward those other films. Taken on its own merits, The Artist’s Wife is a perfectly serviceable albeit predictable emotional drama. But it’s difficult to consider those merits when so many better films have dealt with them all before so similarly.

These comparisons prove to be The Artist’s Wife’s downfall and, ultimately, single-handedly thwart it from being anything more than just another Alzheimer’s drama. Despite compelling performances and decent direction from Tom Dolby (founder of Water’s End Productions, who produced Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name), there’s just not enough here to stand it out in a crowded genre. The film certainly has nearly no fresh insights on its core themes, and ultimately collapses under the weight of its own predictability and unoriginal premise.

While the performance of Bruce Dern and Lena Olin are certainly worth the price of admission, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen executed better a hundred times before.

The Artist’s Wife

In Trailers by FilmJuice