Dementia is such a horrible disease, Hollywood over the years highlighting this in a number of films that work as character studies into those suffering. It's important these films bring with them sensitivity towards the matter as so many people are affected by the disease, The Artist's Wife doing so with an emotional story of how a sufferer's wife is impacted as she tries to hold on to every last remnant of his character.

Claire Smythson (Lena Olin), wife of the renowned abstract artist Richard Smythson (Bruce Dern), is plunged into a late-life crisis when her husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and is in danger of not completing the paintings for his final show.
One of the more compelling aspects of The Artist's Wife is the framing of the film, Ryan Earl Parker's cinematography ensuring a number of shots feel like a piece of art thus making it a visually striking film. The film also possesses a melodic piano score from Jeff Grace that brings some real softness to a very heavy subject matter, managing to fill the scene with more powerful tones when required.

The two main performances in the film are shining lights amidst an array of mediocre supporting performances, Bruce Dern capturing the small changes in character so impressively before becoming much more drastic as the film progresses. This is very much Lena Olin's film though and as Claire she delivers a remarkable performance, fighting a losing battle mostly alone as she tries to cling on to every last piece of her husband. There's subtlety in the performance and it's heartbreaking to watch her lose her grip on her emotions, channeling this into a passion for art she left behind to keep up appearances on her husband's professional life.

Tom Dolby directs with a sense of respect towards the subject matter which is certainly required to ensure a film like this doesn't become exploitative of such a horrible disease that many people suffer from around the world. It's a well written film as well, Dolby co-writing with Nicole Brending and Abdi Nazemian and the arc of Claire throughout makes for such an emotional viewing experience at times.

The Artist's Wife is a film that may find itself in the shadow of the far superior The Father however, it offers a different angle to look at the effects of dementia rather than just being a carbon copy. With great performances from Bruce Dern and Lena Olin, it's certainly one to look out for.

Verdict: ★★★


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