"A Woman Under the Influence" is a compelling slice of raw and unfiltered human experience. This 1974 film, directed by John Cassavetes, is a gripping and deeply affecting examination of mental illness and the toll it takes on a working-class family.
Gena Rowlands gives a powerhouse performance as Mabel Longhetti, the manic-depressive wife of a hard-working construction worker, played by Peter Falk. Rowlands takes her character through extreme highs and lows, making Mabel an emotional whirlwind that leaves a lasting impression. Falk's portrayal of a man attempting to manage his wife's condition while trying to maintain normalcy for their children is nothing short of remarkable.
Cassavetes’ direction is distinct, with his signature style of improvisation and realism being crucial to the film's overall impact. The framing and long takes contribute significantly to the claustrophobic feel of the film, as do the uncomfortably intimate close-ups.
The plot isn't so much a linear progression of events, but rather an exploration of the trials and tribulations of the Longhetti family. The script, also penned by Cassavetes, plunges the viewer into a roller coaster of emotions and never lets go.
"A Woman Under the Influence" is a film that, while challenging to watch at times, rewards its viewer with its raw and honest portrayal of a family struggling with mental illness. It is a testament to the brilliance of both Cassavetes and Rowlands that it remains a poignant and relevant piece of cinema even decades after its release.