Cast: Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Anderson and Elizabeth Lawrence
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Written by Ronald Bass (screenplay) and Nancy Price (Novel)
Martin Burney (Bergin) is a successful man; a high earning job, respect, an impressive beach house and a beautiful young wife, Laura (Roberts). However, it doesn’t take long for this illusion to shatter. Although all of the above is true, the audience is soon introduced to his abusive tendencies and the driving force for the plot to come. Though frightened and manipulated by her controlling and violent husband Laura is determined to escape and start a new life far away without her husbands knowledge. Joseph Ruben entangles hope, suspense, romance and fear throughout the telling of this story led by a particularly strong cast.
With just over 90 minutes to tell the story I think they do a good job. Taking on a film that represents both psychological and physical abuse is not an easy task and Ruben does it well. The manipulative comments and physical battering are run parallel with extravagant gifts and kind words, a realistic representation of this kind of abuse. With a plot that see’s Laura run from her terrifying, lonely existence it allows the writer to implement hope into her life, the dream of a future that she longs for. Something that, despite the suspenseful nature and reappearance of the villain in this thriller, is important for an audience who might see elements of their own life being mirrored on the screen.
Having released in 1991, watching now must elicit a very different response to its original audience. Some of the more theatrical moments don’t settle quite as naturally with a generation that has experienced more ‘scary’ thrillers. Although Bergin creates an intimidating, cruel character in Martin Burney, his actions in the climactic moments of the film do present as slightly pushed and more for dramatic effect rather than realism. Julia Roberts brings the charm and skill that she does to all of her characters, the audience want her to succeed, not just be safe, but to move forward and be happy.
Some critics dismiss the entire film based upon it’s ‘believability’ in the moments leading to Martin finding his wife, and perhaps these moments could have been addressed differently had the film length been stretched and focusses switched. Generally I think this is a solid story that moves quickly whilst dealing with a tricky subject; undoubtably it’s Julia Roberts performance showing the layers of her character brilliantly that holds the audience throughout. Though the film has not aged terribly well; relying heavily on the emotional response of it’s audience, it’s one that I enjoy and will continue to watch every so often.