The Politician’s Wife (1995)

 “The urge to destroy is creative.”

Fans of fine British television, prepare for just over three hours of splendid, riveting drama in The Politician’s Wife. This three-part film concerns a Tory politician, Duncan Matlock (Trevor Eve) and his loyal wife, Flora (Juliet Stevenson). When the film begins, a sex scandal involving Matlock and a “research assistant” Jennifer Caird (Minnie Driver) is just about to explode all over the front pages of the tabloids. London-based Matlock and his entourage hightail it back to the Matlock’s country estate where Flora lives with the children. Matlock’s aim is to break the news to Flora before she sees the headlines. Matlock realizes, and the Prime Minister has made it perfectly clear, that Matlock’s political future depends on whether or not Flora stands by her errant husband. Matlock’s first imperative is to salvage his career, and he coldly calculates Flora’s role–expecting her smiling, public participation.

politicianFlora, who’s been wondering why reporters are gathering outside of her home, is devastated when she hears about the affair. She’s been under the illusion that she had a happy, healthy productive marriage. Her first impulse is to pack her bags and leave, but the forces of the Tory party close ranks and conspire to minimize Matlock’s affair and ensure she remains at her husband’s side. Even Flora’s father pressures Flora to remain–his hopes are pinned on Matlock’s career too. Flora’s decision to leave affects so many people, and she’s subtly reined in and pressured to portray the dutiful forgiving wife. “The Politician’s Wife” sympathetically illustrates the complexities of Flora’s position as she gradually realizes that she’s married to a scumbag.

Flora is the perfect politician’s wife. While her husband possesses good oratory skills, Flora is the brain behind her husband. Naively, she married Matlock believing in his finer qualities, but the machinations behind the affair and the subsequent fallout, reveal Matlock as a hard, devious, polished, unethical man who cares nothing for his constituents. But what is good for Matlock is not necessarily good for the Tory party, and Flora gradually decides to destroy her husband’s career.

With a fine cast, and stellar acting, the superb Juliet Stevenson steals the film as Flora Matlock. When the film begins, she’s the confident, secure, demure wife of a rising star in the Tory party, and she’s her husband’s biggest fan and greatest credit. She unravels when she discovers the affair, but due to the fact she’s in the public eye, much of her unraveling is done in private. As a woman who’s used to playing a role for the camera, she turns this skill to her ability–using it to survive and gradually devising a subtle plan for her husband’s destruction. Excellent entertainment.

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