A Good Wife

A Good Wife ★★★½

It’s a dicey proposition trying to turn wartime atrocities into a metaphor for a woman’s mid-life crisis, but co-writer/director Mirjana Karanović mostly pulls it off. She also stars as Milena, a 50-year-old Serbian housewife on the verge of empty-nest-hood when she discovers among the possessions of her husband, Vlada (Boris Isaković), evidence that he may have participated in ethnic cleansing while fighting in the wars that divided Yugoslavia. Karanović links this devastating revelation to a health crisis for Milena, and builds a rich performance around Milena gradually having the things that define her as a wife, a mother and a woman slip away from her. And she effectively places Milena with in a social circle—or Vlada’s army buddies and their wives—where the women seem unable to create an identity without their men. It’s something of an ill-advised choice that Karanović plays the material most closely connected to the war crimes for potential shock value that feels disconnected from the tone of this character study. The things that Vlada may or may not have done feel far less important to the story that how the idea of those things drives Milena’s actions.