Upon hearing that married men fare better with their health, Dutch sea captain Jakob Störr (Gijs Naber) decides to find himself a wife. At a café he promises his companion that he will wed the first woman to walk in. As luck would have it, the next female to set foot into the establishment is of the sort who turn anyone’s head: the enigmatic Lizzy (Léa Seydoux).

Notwithstanding this chiefly pragmatic catalyst, Jakob and Lizzy’s ensuing flirtation sparkles just the right amount to rouse the audience’s interest in their headlong plunge into marriage. The development that Lizzy ends up a commodity, a thoughtless purchase, comes as no surprise. 

Despite her physical absence from the red carpet, Léa Seydoux is undoubtedly the face of this year’s festival with The Story of My Wife being her third film competing for the Palme d’Or. Here, she inhabits her character’s inscrutable charm perfectly. Like a mischievous cat, she sits on Jakob’s desk, playing with his writing tools and pushing them over the edge in an attempt to annoy her husband.

Neither Seydoux nor Naber are performing in their native languages – most of the dialogue is in English. This doesn’t always work in the film’s favour.

As it is based on the real captain’s memoir, one can see why director Ildikó Enyedi chose to keep the male perspective and have Lizzy remain an opaque figure. However it makes it all the harder for the audience to discern if there is any truth to the couple’s professions of love. There is also something extremely dissatisfying about watching them fight over the same things, the repeated to and fro, only to realise that promises of faithfulness were simply lies.

The double standard of infidelity in these dramas never seems to dissipate. Granted, his wife’s permission for him to flirt is Jakob’s incentive to start an extramarital affair. Demonstrating his virtue, he doesn’t consummate it, upon realising the young girl willing to give up her virginity does so only in the hopes of pleasing him. But he continues his philandering with numerous women, while being jealous and controlling of his wife.

Told through the captain’s eyes, A Feleségem Története is not really the story of his wife, but rather of his noncommittal attempt to be a husband.

★★★☆☆

Selina Sondermann

The Story of My Wife (A Feleségem Története) does not have a UK release date set.

For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.

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