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SUNDANCE 2016

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A Good Wife: Questioning the price of a good life

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- Mirjana Karanović's directorial debut is the story of a good woman who finds herself in bad circumstances

A Good Wife: Questioning the price of a good life
Mirjana Karanović and Boris Isaković in A Good Wife

A Good Wife [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the directorial debut by Serbian star Mirjana Karanović (who came to international prominence in the films of Emir Kusturica and, later, in Jasmila Žbanić's Esma's Secret [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Barbara Albert
interview: Jasmila Zbanic
film profile
]
, and was most recently seen in Next to Me [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Stevan Filipović
film profile
]
), has just world-premiered in Sundance's World Cinema Dramatic Competition. 

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Karanović also plays the main character, Milena, a middle-aged woman living a comfortable life with her husband Vlada (Boris Isaković, from Circles [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Nikola Rakocevic
interview: Srdan Golubovic
festival scope
film profile
]
) and her two teenage children, Katarina (Isidora Simjonović, from Clip [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Maja Milos
film profile
]
) and Miloš (Jovan Belobrković). They have a big house in the Belgrade suburbs and two cars – this is a dream life for an average Serbian. How did this family get there? 

When Milena learns that she has breast cancer, she starts to undertake a big spring clean of the house (as people who hear such news often do), and digs out a VHS tape from the Bosnian War, with footage of Vlada and his friends Dejan (Bojan Navojec, most recently seen in Life Is a Trumpet [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Antonio Nuić
film profile
]
) and Sveta (Vlado Kerošević) in uniforms, executing civilians.

Meanwhile, through candid exchanges between the former soldiers and from the TV news, we learn that Serbia is about to extradite those accused of war crimes to the Hague Tribunal. And Milena and Vlada's older daughter, Nataša (Hristina Popović, from Circles and Next to Me), is apparently estranged from the family, or rather, more from her father – she is a politically engaged artist, who has just received a grant from the French government, to which Vlada protests with: “Now they give out awards for hating your own nation?” 

This ideological split, while at the heart of many heated discussions in the Balkans for the past 20 years, including those in books, film and theatre, is what Karanović works hard to keep in the background of this story of a simple (but not simple-minded) woman who just wants a quiet, normal family life. But now this discourse overcomes her reality, and Milena is at a crossroads: there are two maladies to be removed – a tumour and lies. While the first is a no-brainer, the second one is the dilemma of a lifetime.

The consequences of keeping such secrets are more visible in Dejan, an alcoholic, and his wife Suzana (Jasna Djuričić, from Barbarians [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Ivan Ikic
film profile
]
), who gets into verbal fights with Vlada, which Milena can only follow from a distance without knowing the exact cause. But all the events combined give her an idea of what is happening, and her life starts to crumble.

The film is fully told from Milena's point of view, and Karanović's directing is simple and straightforward. There are no ambiguous symbols or digressions; the narrative belongs to the main character, and this is what the director-actress has managed to deliver flawlessly. Co-written with Karanović's frequent collaborators Stevan Filipović and Darko Lungulov, the story includes parts that go over Milena's head – things she never thought about, and doubts she would always shut out before they were fully formed – and these surface in a similar fashion in the narrative, first around its edges, and then growing, to eventually suffocate the main character unless she deals with them.

Shot by one of the most prominent Balkan cinematographers, Erol Zubčević, and edited by Lazar Predojev (White White World [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), A Good Wife is a clean affair devoted to delivering the story of a kind, decent woman who unexpectedly finds herself in very dirty circumstances. 

A Good Wife was co-produced by Serbia's This&That Productions, Bosnia's Deblokada and Croatia's Nukleus Film. Films Boutique handles the international rights. 

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