Henry, the hero of Bruce McDonald's gutsy The Husband, is having a really bad year. His wife, Alyssa, a former teacher, is in jail for sleeping with a fourteen-year-old student, leaving Henry to raise their infant son alone. He loathes his ad agency job -- and his co-workers even more. Moreover, the burden of single-parenting has essentially cut Henry off from his friends, leaving him to stew. Henry has kept a lid on things so far, but as Alyssa's release looms, he finds it increasingly difficult to contain himself.
A kind of horror comedy about impotent male rage and the limits of compassion, The Husband is defiantly unpredictable. We're never quite sure where the film is headed, but we know there's a strong chance it isn't someplace good. Yet we watch, transfixed, even as Henry approaches an undefined point of no return -- primarily because it's hard not to empathize with him on some level, but also because of co-writer and star Maxwell McCabe-Lokos's astonishing performance. Hunched over, always infuriated, and invariably in a rush, Henry is part golem and part speed freak, furiously trying to escape his own anger. McCabe-Lokos is aided by co-writer Kelly Harms; TIFF Rising Star 2011 Sarah Allen as the baffling yet sympathetic Alyssa; noted German actor August Diehl as Henry's lone remaining friend; and the iconic Stephen McHattie as Alyssa's understanding father. Keeping all of these elements under control is McDonald, who turns in what might be his most subtle piece of direction to date.Slyly funny, The Husband has the structure of an Italian sex comedy of the 1960s, but it also takes aim at more serious subjects. Guilt may be the most useless, unproductive emotion, as Susan Sontag once suggested, but chances are that jealousy, leavened with macho rage, comes a close second.