Astronaut’s Wife, The (1999, Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron)

Astronaut's Wife

In The Astronaut’s Wife and for the second time in her career – after Devil’s Advocate – Ms Theron finds herself on the Eastern Seaboard at the mercy of supernatural forces offering genuine suspense and a compelling plot. Theron plays Jillian Armacost, wife of NASA hero Spencer (Johnny Depp), who has left space travel behind after suffering a brief blackout on his last trip. The incident sparks eccentric behaviour and is mirrored by his fellow astronaut Alex (Nick Cassavetes), who dies in mysterious circumstances shortly after returning to Earth.

Discovering she is pregnant with twins, Jillian encounters Sherman Reese (Joe Morton), a NASA whistleblower who claims her husband has been possessed by an alien force. As evidence mounts, she begins to suspect the truth of his claims, and decides to induce a miscarriage. But Spencer has other plans for her, and moves to ensure his new family thrive, whatever the cost…

Rand Ravich’s debut feature may not be wholly original – see Rosemary’s Baby – but it knows how to shock, working as both conventional horror movie and psychological thriller. As with A Beautiful Mind, the central figure’s dilemma is ambiguous, deriving from either justifiable evidence or mounting paranoia.

Depp and Theron perpetuate the suspense and follow the director’s instructions to “carry the audience along on an impending sense of doom,” helped by Allen Daviau’s photography (using some of the same washed-out tints he applied when working on E.T. ). Special effects are marginalised in favour of character development, with Jillian’s neuroses mirrored in the depiction of Manhattan as a claustrophobic and threatening arena.

USA / 1999

Director and Writer: Rand Ravich

Cast: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea DuVall, Donna Murphy