A Beloved Wife (喜劇 愛妻物語) – NYAFF Review: Gaku Hamada plays Gota, a struggling screenwriter stuck in undying writer’s block, who forever waits for an opportunity that would radically change everything for him. Once he is on the crest of a wave,  he will be able to take his daughter out for a tuna party every month. His chances of having sex with his spouse might soar, or at least he can pay for a prostitute to satiate his sexual urges.  The most important of all, he will redeem the lost dignity lying in a tither. In the hysterical opening scene, Gota relentlessly tries to persuade his wife for sex, though the helplessness to even get a bit of morning-cuddle makes you whimper in sadness. Although, the feeling soon fades away when we learn he is not a virtuous person. He has his foibles, that stem out of the vexatious relationship with his hot-headed wife Chika, played by Asami Mizukawa.

Chika is understandably shrewd and has grown into a loudmouth grumbling machine. However, a few flashes of their early romantic endeavor suggests at a heartening amorous relationship they cherished once, which, over the years, has turned into an acerbic, borderline toxic for Gota’s incompetency in his work, as a husband, and as a father. You do strongly feel for Chika’s plight.

Although Gota narrates the film, he takes crap from Chika & hardly refutes back, it’s easier to side with him. The filmmaker Shin Adachi never capitalizes on the wavering sympathy for Gota. The narrative strength of ‘A Beloved Wife’ lies in its non-confirmation to stand behind any character to make the other one look bad. This ensures that focus remains the consequence of marriage without the objective truth of the characters.

A Beloved Wife review
@NYAFF 2020

These are Charlie and Nicole from Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story without the grueling episode of their marriage falling apart. Trapped in a marriage with the burden of expectations, they constantly live on the edge. Chika has lost confidence in Gota as his wafer-thin career could nosedive at any moment. And yet in the counterintuitive episodes, we find her hopeful for a moment, as she prays a couple of times for Gota’s career to take off, reassuring that underneath the afflictions she causes to Gota, she still cares for him.

Being a single bread-earner, it burdens her with the responsibility of finances. She is tightfisted. She would sneak from the backdoor of a deluxe hotel to save a few bucks, and she would even steal wine from the winery. The financial burden feels tangible. The burdensome, poor living condition gives her an undue advantage to look contemptuously at her husband. This is more to do with her disappointment and frustration that keeps piling up every single day.

Her constant flurry of slur unwinding without the heed to her surrounding doesn’t seem to disturb Gota, awfully. This could be because Gota is conscious of this routine and also seems to deserve much of the abuse. When he isn’t attempting to seduce Chika for sex, he flirts with a married woman of his neighborhood, peeps up the skirt of a woman he finds passed out on the street, and watches porn on a VR headset.

What keeps them together even after such an unhealthy relationship is their adorable daughter, Aki. Though Aki is omnipresent and her charm lightens the tension, it’s a shame that her character is reduced to a caricature. She merely acts as an element to easy off the noise than an inherent part of the narrative. We wonder if divorcing could be a better answer to their perpetual squabble. However, when Chika’s frustrations boil over during a fiery confrontation with Gota near the end, we see a flashing streak of their togetherness that amounts more than the problem they have. This melodramatic sequence that borders on comedy reassures us and them, the underlying hope that things will be alright.

The filmmaker Shin Adachi adapts his autobiographical novel into an amusing account begetting an earnest affection. Candour representation of their helplessness crammed with absolute hilarity rooted in straight from the shoulder depiction of their domestic squabble ensure the sympathetic gaze throughout, even when the routine jokes start losing its steam in the third act. And the undeniable truth of such an alliance in real-life space draws us into their bitter relationship and makes us root for them. Masami Inomoto, who worked with Adachi in his debut film, captures the semblance of the claustrophobic feeling of living in a bittersweet relationship by photographing them in cramped spaces of a hotel, a small shared bed, and their tiny apartment.

A Beloved Wife’ is a bawdy comedic trip about the crisis in marriage shown in its naked form. Without being conscious about putting himself under the microscope, Shin Adachi portrays his marital disaster with complete sincerity, further elevated by strong performances across the board.

★ 1/2

A Beloved Wife trailer



DIRECTOR: Adachi Shin
CAST: Hamada Gaku, Mizukawa Asami, Niitsu Chise, Okubo Kayoko
LANGUAGE: Japanese

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