Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
The magnificent performance by Gena Rowlands in the title role is the main reason to watch this difficult but rewarding drama. She plays a housewife, married to Peter Falk and mother to their children, who is coming undone mentally from all the expectations that her family and community have of her. Her madness starts off casual in appearance, but ends up being quite a problem when it starts to involve the neighbours and eventually strangers on the street. She goes to a rest home for examination and recovery, but upon her return there’s no easy way for her husband to fit her back into their family as it originally was. Cassavetes’ development of the character shows a more believable and impressive portrait of madness than had been seen in just about any film, and what is so impressive is how tender it is; she’s lovable despite her madness, while Falk is such a difficult character to like but his adoration of his wife makes him endearing. Naturalistic settings and dialogue help create a distinguishably accurate view of dysfunctional family life.