Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | December 10th, 2020
I’m Your Woman (Julia Hart, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
Rachel Brosnahan plays a woman on the run in director Julia Hart’s latest, I’m Your Woman. She is Jean, married to Eddie, about whom, it very quickly transpires, she knows absolutely nothing. A mostly passive soul without much life experience (or so we gather form her scant backstory), Jean eventually rises to the occasion, becoming both a functional adult and unique individual in ways she never anticipated. Though the film has its limitations, it ultimately proves effective, thanks in no small part to not only Brosnahan (Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) but an engaging ensemble that includes Arinzé Kene (Been So Long) and Marsha Stephanie Blake (See You Yesterday).
Set in the 1970s, the movie serves up a slow-burn of thrills and character development that starts with the disaffected Jean receiving the gift, out of nowhere, of a baby boy from her husband. She asks few questions and receives fewer answers. We quickly surmise that he is some kind of gangster, especially when his partners arrive for a hush-hush meeting, with Jean effectively locked away in the kitchen. That night, however, things take a turn for the unexpected when one of those partners bangs on the door, shoves a bag full of money into Jean’s hands and sends her off with her child and a stranger, Cal (Kene). With no explanation, she finds herself holed up in a new house and told to stay put. Scared and confused, but also unable to really think for herself, she mostly does as ordered.
Unfortunately, the one way in which she defies restrictions leads to dire consequences, and off she and Cal go again, though this time with his wife, Teri (Blake), joining them, their child and his father in tow. It turns out everyone knows more about Eddie and his business than does Jean, who is at first undone by the revelations. Soon, though, that despair turns to anger, and she surprises herself with a strength she didn’t know she had. All along, we also learn more about Cal and Teri, and why they are helping Jean. Everyone has their reasons, and everyone is fully realized. What looks, initially, like it could turn into either a magical-Negro or white-savior narrative becomes, by the end, something blessedly more complex.
It’s not perfect, however, serving up convenient circumstances and occasional contrivances that strain credulity. Hart (Fast Color) also commits the unpardonable cinematic sin of using an opening voiceover that never returns. Still, for much of its running time, it works, turning the sedate pace into an asset, especially once the bullets start flying. There’s an exciting car chase in the future, as well. With impressive period decor and deceptively simple visuals that explode when needed, I’m Your Woman delivers enough dramatic goods to satisfy. Don’t mess with Jean.