23 October 2001 | petershelleyau
in a moment of passion she would lose everything and find herself
This Canadian film adapted from the novel by Joan Barfoot and directed by Leon Marr is an extraordinary character study of a woman married for 20 years who after her anniversary and 40th birthday receives information which leads her life to change. Narrated by the character, as she reads what she writes in a journal, the narrative is split between her present in a presumed asylum and her past married life. Brilliantly acted by Martha Henry, with a stunning physicality, this woman had perceived herself as plain and shy who was saved by the marriage to a man who is clearly ordinary, except to her. Her deification of him, demonstrated by her perfectionist obsessive compulsive mothering, sets up the inevitable fall from grace, but Marr leaves the catalyst as ambiguous, that can have more than one interpretation to anyone except Henry who calls it "The Lie" and the cause of her "simple domestic failure". Marr intercuts between the time frames effortlessly, sometimes using matching imagery like Henry waking up her husband and Henry being awakened by a nurse in the asylum, and thankfully soon abandons the representation of the husband as a faceless holder of a newspaper at the breakfast table, so that we see him being attentive and appreciative of Henry's monumental effort. I also like how Marr can present Henry in an unflattering light eg when she is afraid the husband will spoil the dessert she has made for a party. In the asylum Henry is given a therapist who drones on in the face of her silence, though it's hard to accuse him of not listening when she isn't saying anything, but his need to fill the blank is funny, and Henry is touching when she is given a flower she has asked for when she finally does speak. Marr also provides a great image of Henry's raised pen as a weapon when her notebook is taken from her without permission. In her home life, Henry is posed like a Norman Rockwell painting in golden light as she watches her husband leave for work. She "relaxes" from the routine of her existence by listening to jazz music, specifically Lena Horne's raucous Riding High, where she fantasises about being the singer which is a clue to her odd sensibility, since we would expect someone to be disturbed by such a thing. Marr gives Henry a long take in response to the climactic information, with Henry weeping silent tears, and her concluding celebratory dance explaining the title has a troubling irony.