Lifetime Review: 'My Wife's Secret Life'
A strong third act and casting make up for a problematic protagonist in this Lifetime-ian tale of an affair gone awry.
Laurel Briggs (Kate Villanova) may be thriving in regards to her business career, but at home, her marriage proves to be on rocky ground. In addition to her husband James' (Jason Cermak) past affair still weighing on her mind, Laurel's focus on her work has caused her to become distant and confrontational with her husband. So while away at a business conference following a fight with James, Laurel finds herself tempted by the flirtations of the handsome Kent Anderson (Matthew McCaull).
Laurel's temptation ultimately leads her to have a passionate tryst with Kent; an indiscretion she quickly comes to regret and makes clear to Kent can't happen again. However, Kent makes clear that he doesn't want to let Laurel go, and once Laurel returns home ready to fix things with James, she realizes that Kent's affection has become a dangerous obsession. As Laurel fights to rid herself of her deranged lover, she learns that her chance encounter with Kent was not so chance after all—and that Kent will go to any lengths necessary to have his revenge.
While it may sound petty of me to start off this review with a nitpick, there is one ultimately minor thing about this film that struck me as odd: the title. When you hear the title My Wife's Secret Life, a Lifetime regular would expect the film to be about a man discovering his wife is hiding some kind of deep dark secret that threatens to destroy their lives or that she's willing to kill to keep secret. But instead, as you can see above, the film instead focuses around the story of a woman whose brief affair (which I would hardly refer to as a "secret life") becomes a danger to not only her marriage, but her life. In addition to not really reflecting the story, the title is also bizarre due to the phrasing, making it seem like James will be the main protagonist instead of Laurel.
But it being a cosmetic aspect, the title hardly takes away any enjoyment from the film, as My Wife's Secret Life proves to be an enjoyable little Lifetime thriller. While the plot is far from original, the film holds a few surprises for the audience, particularly in how it allows the viewer to wonder just how the third act is going to transpire. The film also wisely keeps Kent's full motivation for coming after Laurel hidden, allowing for a sort of mini-mystery to emerge for the viewer that has an early reveal that may surprise some viewers expecting it to come at the climax. Speaking of, though, the film's third act shifts the drama into high gear, bringing an intensity that is sure to keep the viewer in riveted attention.
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD Though there is one snag in this otherwise solid climax: its a bit drawn out, with scenes of Laurel begging with Kent for her life and Kent's smug gloating and rambling going on for a bit longer than they needed to. This extended sequence is also only possible thanks to Kent repeatedly pulling the "Killer Inexplicably wants to Take Victim to a Specific Location to Kill Them so the Heroes need Time to Save Them" card; one which goes against Kent's plans to use Laurel to hurt James and intentions to flee the country after completing his revenge Spoilers Over).
The cast also brings their best to their roles, though their abilities can't completely offset the problems that surround them. In addition to moments of dialogue that feel notably stilted, there is the way in which Laurel's character is established. Kate Villanova does well in the role and delivers on Laurel's guilt about her affair and desperation to free herself and her family from Kent's grasp as the film progresses. But for the first act, and even a little into the second, Laurel comes across as overly cold and detached from her husband and children. Her aloof nature to her marriage is on full display during her tryst with Kent, making her remorse for the illicit deed come out of nowhere. The transition quite literally goes from Laurel casually ending her fling with Kent—in a tone that conveys self-preservation rather than guilt—to suddenly having a crying fit in the shower. Laurel also briefly continues her "Indignant Wife" routine with James and has flashbacks to her affair before finally determining to salvage her marriage, which all adds up to a very uneven characterization for this film's main heroine.
Villanova's emotional performance once Laurel gets into her groove manages to overcome the script's lackluster building of her character, and she and Jason Cermak play well off each other as a couple determined to save their marriage from the psychopath threatening to destroy it. Cermak, on his own, brings an easy likability to James, with his strongest moment being his quiet dismay at learning about his wife's affair. Matthew MacCaull, meanwhile, transforms Kent over the course of the film from a standard scummy entitled obsessor to a truly malicious sociopath whose downfall you will root to see—especially when his backstory is revealed. Zak Santiago is solidly commanding as private investigator Ari Sheffler, and Marnie Mahannah is surprisingly charming as Laurel's awkward but quirky sister Angela, who ends up inadvertently roped into her sister's entanglement with Kent.
Laurel struggles to recover from the characterization hit she takes in the opening acts, and the other fumbles mentioned above do their part in detracting from My Wife's Secret Life. But as a whole, the cast and script do fairly well in making up for the film's weaker moments, allowing for a moderately entertaining film to emerge from what could've been an unpleasant trainwreck. Brave the rough patch that is pre-second act Laurel, and My Wife's Secret Life will prove to be a good Lifetime film to snuggle up with in bed to watch.
Score: 7 out of 10 antique watches.