The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THE WIFE AND HER HOUSE HUSBAND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THE WIFE AND HER HOUSE HUSBAND

The Wife and Her House Husband review
A couple reconnect during the process of their divorce.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Marcus Markou

Starring: Laura Bayston, Laurence Spellman, Alice Marshall, Farshid Rokey, Peter Barrett

The Wife and Her House Husband poster

It's the "'til death do us part" element (and especially that insouciantly contracted preposition) which I think would do it for me: the phrase fundamentally designating that, until the moment you actually die, this is it, forever and ever. Eeesh. All romance, desire, spiritual union rendered as footnotes in what is essentially a binding contract, a pink-slip denoting ownership. If you're really that committed then why do you need the paper to prove it? Perhaps it's because we know, inherently, that the chances of mutual desire, even interest in each other, enduring for more than a few years is unlikely, and therefore a legal mandate is crucial to enforcing the union. Relationships only ever flourish if people grow together, and if their dreams, hopes and fears match in ways that catalyse or surmount the other's. An ongoing transaction so rare and special that we call it love and build entire belief systems upon it, and manifest the ideal in poetry, songs and films.

The Wife and Her House Husband review

Marcus Markou's stunning The Wife and Her House Husband is a film about an absence of love abiding within the empty tenements of a failed marriage, with all its lingering accoutrements of money, children and spent time. We hear Cassie (Laura Bayston) and Matthew (Laurence Spellman) before we see them, arguing behind a black title card in a manner that already seems tired and over-familiar. A fade in takes us to an office space, where the upset couple have it out before an owlish suit. The in media res session establishes that these are people who are out of love, but yet in a marriage, which may not be quite beyond repair. Why bother though? Well, there's children involved. The lingering notion of placed eggs in each other's baskets, too. But, perhaps, Markou suggests, the reason for wanting to reforge a bond is simply because isn't that what you're supposed to, inevitably, do with marriages: save them?

Markou's film is about what happens after the marriage, when the initial excitements of sexual desire and finding someone who really likes you have faded away. This aspect of relationships, unlike the halcyon early days which are denoted in the aspirational fantasies sold by romcoms and fairy tales, does not necessarily have a cultural touchstone. The Wife and Her House Husband is characterised by the frustrations of its participants, their disorientation. In the film's first act, there seems to be no single reason for their break-up. There is a suggestion that Cassie has focussed at cost on her career, and that Matthew is distant. The devastating intimation, however, is more scarily bland: they've simply grown apart. It happens, and with such an unavoidability that the star-crossed lovers wrote their potentially uncrossed future selves a pre-emptive letter detailing their then-present emotions, and a series of locations with poignant relevance which Cassie-and-Matthew-to-come can retrace (*makes sick noise*). Really, however, this list is a perfunctory Macguffin which enables the narrative to negotiate the ramifications of estrangement.

The Wife and Her House Husband review

An interesting early reveal is that Matthew has guardianship of their kids (unseen, but around the 7 to 9 mark), an unusual arrangement when in British law the mother is often the primary carer. Is this because of Cassie's career, is it her decision, or is the custody due to Cassie's extra-curricular sexual activities? Their marriage was open, with Cassie a full-on sex person who had accounts at lux swinger clubs: a brave development in the narrative which presents the matter in a mature and serious way.  Aa part of the letter's decree, Matthew meets Cassie in such a club, role-playing an anonymous date and enacting cuckold dialogue pertaining to a husband (ie, himself) at home. He ends up with Cassie expertly fisting him over a bathroom sink in a dizzying performance of trust, self-loathing and subservience. During the physical imperative of sex, the pair seem closer, but even this intimacy cannot be sustained, conflated as it is with performance enacted to distract from the inescapable truth of incompatibility.

The Wife and Her House Husband review

An office, a park, a sex club; the subscribed locations where the two meet are social spaces, which entail a degree of public presentation (a lot of The Wife and Her House Husband is deliciously awkward - fans of watching couples row in public, fill your boots!). The dialogue in these scenes is fittingly Pinteresque, weighted and fraught with subtext which social etiquette has buttoned down. This, along with the low-budget and utterly convincing performances, imbue Markou's film with a raw urgency. In a rebuke to typical narrative resolution, and societal expectations, a heart-breaking last reel reveal suggests that the only aspect Cassie and Matthew will ever truly share is a broken, irreparable past.

The Wife and Her House Husband is in UK cinemas from March 10th.

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