The Runaway Wife
On the surface it seems that Laura (Julia Roberts) and Martin (Patrick Bergin) are happily married but behind closed doors it is anything but as Martin is a controlling, jealous and abusive husband who leaves Laura a nervous wreck in fear of a beating for the smallest of things. Spotting an opportunity to escape her life of misery, Laura fakes her own death and sets off to start a new life, in a new town where she meets the pleasant Ben (Kevin Anderson). But when Martin discovers that his Laura didn't die he will stop at nothing to find her and get his revenge.
1991 was a busy year for Julia Roberts with the release of three movies, the first of which was the thriller "Sleeping with the Enemy". Sadly whilst for about the first 30 minutes of "Sleeping with the Enemy" we get an intriguing thriller about an abused wife who makes a new life for herself it descends into cliche with some elements which make you think what the hell was the writer and director thinking. As such "Sleeping with the Enemy" ends up a little disappointing not just because it ends up a cliche but because it starts so well. And whilst Julia Roberts delivers a sympathetic character that is easy to warm to it is about the only highlight once "Sleeping with the Enemy" reaches what is quite a predictable end.
As already mentioned for the first 30 minutes "Sleeping with the Enemy" is on the money, building up this relationship between Laura and Martin as he controls her in everyway possible. It is solid stuff as scene after scene builds on this cruel relationship as Martin demands everything to be just right in their modern beach home, be it the canned food lined up in the cupboard or the towels in the bathroom all in line. And being such a controlling man we watch how he dishes out brutal beatings when ever Laura does something wrong or even when his jealousy makes him think she has done something wrong. It may be rooted in reality but is also feels a little cliche as following a moment of anger Martin buys Laura something nice but with Laura being timid makes it very intriguing as does the culmination of these 30 minutes where Laura escapes, faking her own death in a boating accident.
Unfortunately the intensity of the opening of "Sleeping with the Enemy" is lost especially when we learn that following her faked death Laura returns to the beach house to pick up some belongings she packed in readiness for her escape. That in itself isn't the worse problem, nope the worst problem is when she discards her wedding ring in the toilet, it leaves you drop jawed at how stupid it is. And of course this is just one of various clues which lead Martin to believe that his wife didn't die and so sets about tracking her down. It means that whilst Laura has started a new life and found a new nice man, Martin is hot on her trailer and no matter of flowering it up means that come the end of the movie he will have found her. In truth "Sleeping with the Enemy" gets all a bit stupid especially during the romantic scene where Laura dresses up in various costumes whilst "Brown Eye Girl" is playing just feels cheesy and seriously out of place in a thriller.
The saving grace for "Sleeping with the Enemy" is the simple fact that Julia Roberts delivers a likeable character in Laura. We do feel for her in those opening scenes when she is being forcefully controlled by Martin and take joy when not only does she escape but finds a decent young man. And it is down to Roberts that we do take Laura into out hearts and feel for her even when she does escape, living in fear that one day Martin will discover her. Sadly the rest of the cast which is basically Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson don't deliver so well with Bergin almost bordering on a pantomime villain as he trudges through various scenes in his black overcoat, looking seriously out of place. It's just wrong and causes more inappropriate laughter.
What this all boils down to is that after a strong start "Sleeping with the Enemy" then descends into a cliche and quite frankly laughable thriller. The twists, such as the ring in the toilet are just stupid and the whole aspect of Martin toying with Laura ends up as too cliche. If it wasn't for Roberts delivering warmth as Laura "Sleeping with the Enemy" would have ended up a below par thriller.