A Woman Under the Influence ★★★★½

I once read that Richard Dreyfuss went home and vomited immediately after watching this film. Thankfully, the experience didn't have the same effect on me. But it's easy to see why it might. Even several days after watching it, the emotional sucker punch it delivers is palpable.

Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands deliver a pair of astonishingly convincing central performances, with Rowlands playing the housewife slowly going off the rails, and Falk as the bewildered blue-collar worker husband struggling to cope in a seemingly perpetual state of apoplexy.

The viewing experience feels somewhat voyeuristic; like looking through a window into the home of a family on the brink of a collective insanity that might, at any minute, bring about its collapse.

John Cassavetes was a master of creating brilliant characters and testing them by pushing them into extreme situations. A Woman Under Influence might be the best example of this. It's hard to recall a better screen performance than Gena Rowlands trying to hold it together as wife and mother while in the midst of an emotional breakdown.

It took me a while to digest this film properly. Immediately after watching, I was left with a feeling of numbness, more than anything. But great art is often a slow-burner, and Cassavetes' unforgiving portrait of everyday domestic turmoil is as emotionally wrenching and haunting as it is utterly brilliant.