The ‘crook-on-the-lam’ story is one that has, for the most part, been characterised by men, men who have made a bad decision, forced to leave everything behind and take to the open road to escape their pursuers. Part and parcel of that narrative usually involves our antihero having to leave behind a loved one, a girlfriend, or his wife and kids. What happens to that fugitive’s partner, who is just handed a bag of money and told to get out of town? What does that story look like? That is the question at the heart of Julia Hart’s genre picture, and it makes for one hell of a crime thriller.
It is Pittsburgh in the ’70s. Jean (Rachel Brosnahan) thinks that nothing can top the surprise of her husband, Eddie (Bill Heck), coming home one day with a newborn baby in his arms. But that is just the beginning of the surprises that Eddie has in store for her. Only days later, one of Eddie’s associates arrives in the middle of the night, hurriedly packs a bag, and puts her in a car with another associate, Cal (Arinzé Kene). She’s simply told to follow instructions, with no one letting her what has become of her husband or what all this is about. As the danger towards her and her new baby becomes more and more apparent, Jean has to take action to ensure that the rest of her life isn’t spent constantly looking over her shoulder.
Jean is a woman seemingly stuck in a rut when we meet her at the start of the story. She’s naive and ignorant about what it is that Eddie does for a living, an approach to their relationship that he clearly prefers, but has produced some distance between them. This couple with the fact that they have been unable to conceive has left Jean in a seemingly aimless position. Then, all at once, her life is turned upside down by Eddie’s mysterious, yet undoubtedly criminal actions.
The film then becomes one of two halves. The first is Jean being led cross country by Cal, another associate of her husband who is clearly kind and conflicted by the role that he has to play. The second half sees Jean finally having enough, and tagging along with Cal’s wife, Terry (Marsha Stephanie Blake), to sort out Eddie’s mess so that she and her adopted son can have a chance at a normal life.
As a result of these two distinct halves, I’m Your Woman does take its time to firmly settle into a groove, losing some of the tautness that its more contained sequences do manage to construct. But it is often incredibly gripping as it takes more turns into becoming a tale about a woman seeking control in a situation where every decision is being made for her. Hart has a strong command of her craft, with her and cinematographer Bryce Fortner relishing in the bold colours of both its 70’s setting and autumnal colour scheme. Many scenes are played with sharp high wire tension, only occasionally undermined by a score that can be a little jarring. But key set pieces in the film, from a home invasion to a shooting in a nightclub, ring with tension and feel exhausting, carrying with them a tactility that’ll make you hold your breath and gasp in shock.
A significant reason as to why you remain on tenterhooks throughout is down to the excellent performances from across the whole cast, no matter how large the role. The three most significant players, in particular, put in performances that are eye-catching and unexpected, filled with a lot of heart and grit throughout. Blake and Kene as Terry and Cal have both a weariness and warmth to them which is consistently captivating. They are certainly names to keep your eye on, as both seem absolutely geared for the big time.
The film does, however, very much belong to Rachel Brosnahan. With blonde hair, chequered shirts, and denim trousers, this character is very far and away from the spirited and peppy Midge in her other Amazon property, the hit comedy-drama The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel. It very much feels like a conscious choice, as it is a role that more than demonstrates her versatility, and one that you imagine will propel her into an even more in-demand star going forward.
In taking tropes of fugitive thrillers and allowing a new perspective to take centre stage, I’m Your Woman is an excellent example of how to take a seemingly worn-out structure (the on the run crime flick) and present it with a sense of urgency and relevance by shifting its attention to characters who once would have occupied the background. We do not need to see what mess Eddie has gotten himself into, nor do we really care. Jean’s journey with Cal and Terry is more than captivating enough in its own right, as she is thrust into a demanding and dangerous world that’ll reveal more about herself than she ever could have predicted. It is a smart and subversive thriller that is frequently gripping, with a red hot cast firing on all cylinders.
Dir: Julia Hart
Scr: Julia Hart, Jordan Horowitz
Cast: Rachel Brosnahan, Arinzé Kene, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Bill Heck, Frankie Faison, Marceline Hugot, James McMenamin
Prd: Rachel Brosnahan, Jordan Horowitz
DOP: Bryce Fortner
Music: Aska Matsumiya
Runtime: 120 minutes
I’m Your Woman is available on Amazon Prime Video from December 11th 2020.