‘I’M YOUR WOMAN’ AFI Fest Review: Rachel Brosnahan delivers power & poignancy

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

I’M YOUR WOMAN

Rated R, 120 minutes

Directed by: Julia Hart

Starring: Rachel BrosnahanFrankie FaisonBill Heck, Arinzé Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake, James McMenamin

Filmmaker Julia Hart has a knack for getting to the heart of her characters in a brief amount of time, all while subtly emphasizing their humanity and pathos. It doesn’t matter if it’s a story centering on a teacher (MISS STEVENS), a mother denying her superhuman abilities (FAST COLOR), or a young lady in search of her voice (STARGIRL). She and longtime creative collaborator, husband Jordan Horowitz, know how to fashion complex, nuanced and interesting people thrust into extraordinary situations. I’M YOUR WOMAN does just that in its defiant, female-forward focus on a wife forced to deal with the consequences of her husband’s criminal actions. From its Cassavetes-esque heroine to the heart-filled drive deep within its marrow, this 70’s style character-driven crime drama is contemporary and distinct in its aim.

Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) is used to feeling isolated by her husband Eddie (Bill Heck). He’s a thief who keeps a lot of his shady business dealings away from their big, beautiful home. Occasionally though she’ll see some of his criminal consorts gathering in their foyer, but a willful sense of denial keeps her from asking questions. Even Eddie stealing a baby boy for her to mother fails to inspire any queries, possibly because the answers might be too grim. She jumps right into the position.

Jean’s privileged life takes a sharp turn when she’s jarred awake in the middle of the night by one of Eddie’s goons urging her to flee her home, putting her and baby Harry in the charge of another of Eddie’s guys, Cal (Arinzé Kene). Eddie’s gone missing and people are after Jean for the details to his whereabouts. Cal doesn’t say much, perhaps as a way to shield her from grim realities, when she expresses confusion as to the pressing situation, but takes her to a safe house. When that’s inevitably compromised, he whisks her to a remote cabin where she must wait out the storm with Cal’s family Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), Paul (Da’Mauri Parks) and Art (Frankie Faison).

Marsha Stephanie Blake and James McMenamin star in I’M YOUR WOMAN Photo: Wilson Webb/Amazon Studios

Hart keeps the female perspective at the forefront of the action at all times, whether that be during an exhilarating, capably constructed car chase sequence, or in simpler set-ups when Jean is learning how to fire a gun, light a fire, or survive solitude. There’s a wealth of poignancy and empowering sentiment Hart and Horowitz press on in the overarching themes, like that women quickly adapt to life’s curveballs and we have hidden reserves of strength and power waiting to be awakened within us. Because of the slow-burning, steadied nature of the material, this commentary blessedly avoids the trappings of cheap grabs at feminism. The scene in the laundromat hits particularly hard where a group of women – all strangers to Jean – comfort her.

The autumnal color palette, captured in Bryce Fortner’s superb cinematography and Natalie O’Brien’s covetable costume designs, are symbolically reflective of the characters caught in a season of change. Mustard yellow, burnt sienna and beigey browns populate the picture’s colorscape. Shayar Bhansali and Tracey Wadmore-Smith’s editing is crisp, if not sharply chilled. Dissolves augment the atmospheric temperature. Jean’s wardrobe, which helps to chart her evolution, takes things a step further in its metaphorical context. Once she answers her Campbellian call, her clothing’s thicker layers represent the armor she bundles herself in to get through battle. Her sparkly sequined jumpsuit, when going into the criminal’s nightclub lair, is her glam version of chainmail. Gae S. Buckley’s production design and Gary Kosko’s art direction grounds the film further in similarly styled earth tones.

Though it shares similarities to contemporaries like WIDOWS and THE KITCHEN, both of which also showcase married women persevering in dangerous extremes, I’M YOUR WOMAN feels familiar in its intricacies, yet refreshingly unique in its facets.

I’M YOUR WOMAN played AFI Fest on October 15. It will be released by Amazon Studios in select theaters on December 4 ahead of its global launch on Prime Video on December 11.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.