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I want him to know you before he forgets
He also tries to reconnect with his stepdaughter, Angela (Juliet Rylance), even though the younger woman’s initial welcome is freezing cold. But Claire perseveres: “I want you to know you before you forget.”
In many ways, The artist’s wife follows a fairly traditional path. Richard’s memory problems worsen and with the confusion comes anger, though it’s hard to tell how much of his moodiness is fear-driven and how directly a result of his condition. Some may even be just him. It is clear that he has never been the warm and cuddly type.
Where the film really excels is to show the burdens placed on both the patient with dementia and those closest to him. Richard talks about how everyone and everything in his life are starting to disappear; At first it seems to refer to the death of old friends, but it soon becomes clear that he also means the memory of them.
And Claire finds herself exhausted from her seemingly random outbursts, like when she suddenly revives a six-year argument about a suspicious relationship. Dolby’s movie extracts the drama by focusing on aberrant behavior rather than mere memory loss. The latter, while devastating, is at least expected. The former may seem like an unprovoked assault.
Both actors are fantastic, although it should be noted that at 84, Dern is busier than ever. He has nine films in the works and an average of eight credits in each of the past three years, in all from indie music to Tarantino. There’s a joke somewhere about how, when you’re over the hill, you start picking up speed.
It must also be said – and this is not a criticism The artist’s wife – that the subgenre of the dementia drama remains a remarkably white affair. See the posters for excellent examples such as Away from her, again Alice is The Leisure Seekerand you will see a parade of older white faces. So many different people are affected by this condition; I want to see even more of their stories.
The Artist’s Wife will open on September 26 in Victoria, Saskatoon, Regina, Waterloo, Hamilton and Toronto and on October 2 in Edmonton and Ottawa.
3.5 stars out of 5