The Story of My Wife

Man makes crude bet with friend, vows to marry the next girl who walks in.

Sounds like the premise of one of those beach-reads romance novels, or a cheesy teen romance, but in fact, this is writer-director Ildikó Enyedi’s latest period drama. So what’s the difference?

Sea Captain Jacob Störr (Gijs Naber) is ready to marry, he declares to his friend. “To whom?” the friend inquires, naturally. Jacob doesn’t know yet, so he proposes that he will marry the very next woman who enters the café. Lucky for him it’s the lovely Lizzy (Léa Seydoux), who proves surprisingly amenable to his plan.

Is it a good idea to marry so impetuously? Jacob and Lizzy will soon find that love and marriage are about as turbulent as the seas he routinely conquers as captain of a large vessel, and not so easily navigated. Marriage without courtship, indeed without even basic familiarity, does pose its challenges. The Story of My Wife is the story of a man discovering his wife after he’s already married her. She’s coy, and teasing, and he can never get a good read on her, and since we know Lizzy only through Jacob’s eyes, neither can we. Is she sincere? Serious? Unfaithful or just a flirt? Whatever charm resides in her mysterious character evaporates in the sheer repetitiveness of the film, Jacob’s jealousy coming to a head over and over again.

Jacob is awkward on land, and even more uneasy when he finds himself unable to captain his marriage and steer it in the direction of his choosing. Used to taking people at their word to a fault, Jacob cannot credit his wife’s womanly wiles. It’s mildly interesting but this clunker takes on water steadily but takes almost as long as Titanic (the movie, about 3 hours) to sink. I’m quite sure that you’ll have jumped overboard long before then. The Story of My Wife beguiles us with its pretty 1920s setting and Seydoux’s luscious ringlets, but it ultimately fails to hold the attention.

The Story of My Wife is an official selection of TIFF21.

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