Mabel, a wife and mother, is loved by her husband Nick but her madness proves to be a problem in the marriage. The film transpires to a positive role of madness in the family, challenging conventional representations of madness in cinema.
My First Wife is an excruciatingly emotional film about the break-up of a marriage in contemporary Australia. There's not much new in it, and the dialogue isn't especially brilliant, but it's exceeding well done and sharply observant. Director and co-author Paul Cox based the story partly on events in his own life, and it shows. I feel a little cool about the film, as it delves into extremely intimate feelings with a mix of openness and artlessness that I find at times offputting. There are things that we are told about the husband that it might be better not to know, or to have told differently. The cast, led by John Hargreaves and Wendy Hughes, is flawless. Like so many films from Australia and Great Britain over the last twenty years, My First Wife has about it an undercurrent of pessimism that goes beyond its putative subject matter, as if the real subject were the Anglo-Saxon world in general, and its imminent demise, which, as is suggested in this film, richly deserved.
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