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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The Other Woman
Directed by Don Roos
IFC Films 02/11 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - sexual content, language

The greatest trauma in a marriage is the sudden and unexpected death of a child. It can create walls between the parents and even put their intimate relationship in jeopardy. That is certainly true in The Other Woman based on the book Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman. Writer and director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) certainly delivers plenty of sobering moments in this story but also manages to spice it up occasionally with some funny exchanges between people.

Emilia (Natalie Portman), a Harvard Law School graduate, lands a job at a prestigious firm where Jack (Scott Cohen) is a successful lawyer. Despite the fact that he is married, they begin an affair. When she becomes pregnant, he leaves his wife Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow), a highly sought after doctor. William (Charlie Tahan), Jack's smart and overly sensitive son, doesn't want his mother replaced; he immediately dislikes Emilia and seems intent upon getting rid of her. All three members of this new family are stunned and disoriented when the baby dies of SIDS three days after coming into this world.

In Take Up Your Life, Janet Cedar Spring has a perfect description of what Emilla goes through next: "Grief seems to me like a winter house: guarded, sheltered against an outside world that's expected to be difficult. The windows are small to keep out the cold, and little light gets in. The darkness and warmth make a cozy place to hide, to nurse wounds, to incubate what is not yet ready to be exposed."

The death of their daughter shuts down Emilia's marriage. She is quite irate that the mothers at William's school view her as a loose woman and will have nothing to do with her. When her stepson casually remarks that they should sell the baby's things on eBay, Emilia goes ballistic. She is very hard to be around and hits a low point when she suggests that William have some ice cream even though she knows he is severely allergic to it.

In addition to the battles at home, Emilia must contend with the intrusions and power plays of Jack's ex-wife who is a control freak. She hasn't gotten over the divorce and feels very angry toward him for ditching her. In one of the most poignant scenes in the film, she is asked by Jack to tell his wife whether or not she was complicit in the death of her infant daughter. A final irritant is Emilia's father, a judge, who regularly saw a prostitute years ago and betrayed his wife. This bothers Emilia who feels the sting of being considered a home-wrecker.

The Other Woman is a powerful profile of a grieving woman. Emilia spends a lot of time licking her wounds before she is ready to re-enter the fray of everyday life. But none of us can stay in a cozy hiding place. We have to eventually let go and start afresh no matter how hard and twisted the road ahead may be.

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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Related Content

• See The Spiritual Path of Grief,, a collection of quotations and insights into the complex dynamics of grief.

• Read our review of Rabbit Hole, another film about the effect of the death of a child on the parents' marriage.