Has anyone ever tried to talk you out of embarrassing yourself in public? This is what’s happening to our main character, Felix, at the start of Sorry About Your Wife. He’s the kind of polite guy who blends into the fabric of society in so non-descript a fashion that he might as well be a beige couch, and he’s just found out his wife isn’t being faithful. Ruh roh.
The setting? A industry pool party at some modernist glass house in the hills of Los Angeles—the kind of party that’s filled with people who are about as alive as the wax statues at Madame Tussaud’s. Like a painting by David Hockney or a photo by Slim Aaron, the place is filled with anonymously perfect people—people like Felix’s wife—and the film does a marvelous job of satirizing this world while also having something to say about the downsides of fear, the problems with cautiousness, and the value of speaking up for yourself when it really matters.
Felix is played by P.J. Byrne (from The Wolf of Wall Street and Vinyl), and the actor is as good at communicating with a glance as he is with his words. He moves around the party like a dog trying to find its way out of a fenced off backyard, and his friend Sandra (Stasia Patwell), moves around with him, simultaneously propelling his agitation via revelation, while attempting to contain it. She does a particularly great job at countering Felix’s nervous energy while trying to prevent him from sabotaging his public image and career, and while she tells Felix about his wife’s infidelity, she also explains to him that that confronting the wife about it in public is a terrible idea.
These two characters walk and talk their way around the pool party in a way that is absolutely kinetic, stopping every once in a while to throw out a line that either makes you laugh or moves the plot forward. Exposition is parceled out piecemeal amidst the action, dropping the audience into the situation and allowing us to dive into the stream of the film immediately, and to move along it with pace. Adding to the fluidity of the film is some seamless steadicam work and a jazzy score that knows when to make an impression but also when to fade into the background. The end result of all this rhythm and movement is a film that ebbs and flows like a good song, and has essentially the same runtime as one as well.
“I always find myself leaning towards stories about underwhelming people in overwhelming events,” writes director Luke Davies, who is becoming quite good at telling these kinds of stories. (We featured his short Unleaded back in 2016). And though Felix is an underwhelming person, he is certainly not an underwhelming character. There’s something inherently satisfying about a watching a character fall apart at the seams on-screen when faced with adversity; after all, characters often do things we’re too scared to do, and films allow us to live through proxy. Sometimes the fear of making a scene or saying what you want to say keeps you from being the person you want to be, and the question raised by Sorry About Your Wife is this: would you rather be the kind of person who causes a splash? Or the kind of person who gets splashed on?