STANDING ON GUARD

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Politician’s Wife, The

Release Year:         1995
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; NTSC
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         1 / 3
Running Time:         195 minutes
DVD Release Date:         June 4, 2013
Screenwriter:         Paula Milne
Director:         Graham Theakston
Actors:         Juliet Stevenson, Trevor Eve
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

Acorn Media Write-up:    
When the tabloids catch Conservative family-values politician Duncan Matlock (Trevor Eve, Waking the Dead) in an affair with an escort (Minnie Driver, Good Will Hunting), no one is more stunned than his devoted wife, Flora (Juliet Stevenson, The Hour, Bend It LIke Beckham). Pressured by her husband, the party machinery, and even her father, Flora maintains a loyal facade at first. But in private, her anguish hardens into rage after erotic telephone tapes reveal the extent of Duncan’s duplicity.

Best drama winner at the International Emmys and the BAFTA awards, THE POLITICIAN’S WIFE is “one of the best dramas the Masterpiece Theatre series has ever produced” (The Boston Globe).

BONUS Background essay by writer Paula Milne

Jon Ted Wynne Review:    
How many times have news headlines featured sex scandals involving high level politicians? Exactly. Too many to count. That makes THE POLITICIAN’S WIFE timely, important and relevant.

While not entirely successful due to an at times obvious anti-Conservative bias, this superb production takes a familiar scenario and turns it on its ear. By focusing on the wronged wife’s perspective, writer Paula Milne injects new life into what could have been a heavy-handed tirade against the abuses of power.

Walking a fine line between condemning blatant hypocrisy and asserting the producers’ apparent political views, THE POLITICIAN’S WIFE works best when it takes you inside the mind and swirling emotions of Juliet Stevenson’s Flora. Her emotional breakdown is both heart-breaking and fascinating and her subsequent course of action (read Revenge) is alternately satisfying, disastrous and unexpectedly life-changing. Flora’s thoroughly rotten adulterer husband is made palatable simply by being played by Trevor Eve, a likeable actor who is unafraid to take tremendous risks with this role. One wonders how often he was recognized in public after the initial broadcast and told off, in no uncertain terms, by some formerly adoring fan (it happens).

Probably the most remarkable aspect of THE POLITICIAN’S WIFE is how it analyzes the whole concept of Betrayal. There are other themes as well, including hypocrisy, honour, morality, etc. But the anatomy of betrayal has rarely been better portrayed. Eve’s Duncan is a man so wholly convinced of his own destiny that his sense of entitlement is astounding. He relies so completely on his wife (she even cuts his toenails for him when he’s in the bath) and yet his reprehensible act of betrayal is somehow justified in his own mind.

The series then asks the question “when is revenge justified?” And at what cost? The transformative power of betrayal is examined with a surgeon’s precision, using a literary scalpel to peel away the layers of humanity that are sacrificed when individuals become desensitized to commitment, loyalty and dedication, (whether to another individual or to a cause, i.e. “the Party”).

The outcome of THE POLITICIAN’S WIFE may shock as well as (or instead of) satisfy. Along the way there is a positively brilliant cliffhanger at the end of episode two which illustrates why Duncan is such a successful politician. You won’t see it coming. Nor are you likely to guess the conclusion to this superior drama.

As mentioned, the only reservation this reviewer has is the implication that hypocrisy and corruption are limited to the political party representing conservative values. There exists in the arts world a proclivity for liberalism that is often very much at odds with “traditional values’. When this spills over into obvious bias it contradicts the supposed fair way of thinking many artists proclaim. Were this aspect trimmed from THE POLITICIAN’S WIFE the film would be in a much better place to express moral outrage. Hypocrisy and betrayal are unfortunate traits of human nature, encouraged by power and privilege. They are not specific to any political idealogy or professed moral world view. The news headlines are proof of that.

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