Rachel Brosnahan is in usual marvellous mode, this time in a crime thriller that tweaks quite a few rules of the formulae that largely define the Hollywood mafia movie. The husband-wife duo of director Julia Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz has crafted a film that would seem like a throwback to suspense drama of the seventies in mood and feel, and yet riding a narrative that should sufficiently cater to contemporary tastes.
The seventies setting of the film becomes important for the film, because the story could never take place in an era of cellphones. Quite simply, the thriller quotient draws from the fact that the protagonist is on the run, and cannot afford to contact anyone, or be contacted.
Brosnahan is Jean, and when we meet her at the start of the film, she is just a suburban housewife lounging in the sun, in her backyard. The perception is altered soon enough. Jean’s husband Eddie (Bill Heck), it turns out, is a criminal who has betrayed his partners. Eddie has disappeared, and Jean must get going, too. So, she is made to pack her bag and some cash, pick up her baby, and go with a stranger named Cal (Arinze Kene), who is to stay with her at all times to protect her.
The backdrop is crisply established, within minutes. Jean hits the high way with Cal, and there are the sporadic thrills as the narrative builds up. Spin in the tale comes when Cal disappears. Jean has no other option but to bank on Cal’s wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), whom she barely knows.
Hart manages to set up absorbing emotional drama as the suspense builds up. The narrative of the crime drama is based amidst everyday situations and characters, which actually renders the story a quiet discomfort.
Importantly, Hart and Horowitz’s storytelling is interesting for the way they reinterpret the gangster’s ‘woman’. This is actually where the film departs from timetested generic diktats. Unlike the demure, backseat role that is normally reserved for women in crime drama, this film puts such a woman in the thick of action. You could cite recent films as Widows and The Kitchen roughly doing a similar thing. Hart’s film, more than these efforts tries being more nuanced about the protagonist’s thought process.
I’m Your Woman is unusual also for the way in which an act of crime is utilised as a storytelling device. The crime itself is not the point of drama here. Its aftermath is, and facing the heat in its wake is Brosnahan’s Jean.
While on Brosnahan, she holds it all together with perfection, bringing alive Jean with a myriad of emotions. Brosnahan makes Jean a fascinating watch, perhaps the most remarkable gangster’s ‘woman’ on the Hollywood screen since Diane Keaton played Kay in The Godfather.
I’m Your Woman (on Amazon Prime); Cast: Rachel Brosnahan, Arinze Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Bill Heck, Frankie Faison, Marceline Hugot; Direction: Julia Hart
–ians, VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY