Domestic abuse can often be an inescapable prison for many women. In the US alone, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds, and globally, between 55 and 95% of women who have been physically assaulted by their partners do not contact authorities for help, since domestic abuse is still not taken as seriously as it should be and contacting authorities can actually place victims in even more danger. On top of that, many abusers often socially, financially, and sexually coerce and abuse their victims, controlling where they go, who they see, if and when they are allowed to work, as well as pushing them for sex and sexual acts that they don’t want.
Laura Burney (Julia Roberts) is one of the many women around the world living with an abuser. The thing is, Laura’s husband, Martin (Patrick Bergin) is not what we are told an abuser should look like. Martin is wealthy, White, highly successful in his career, and (to outsiders looking in) appears to be a loving, doting husband. But while Martin’s at work, Laura is home, keeping their house spotless and meticulously ordered to Martin’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) standards, and making sure she has herself dressed and made up with dinner waiting on the table by the time he gets home. Laura isn’t allowed to have friends or work, and the idea that she might have even looked at another man is one of the many things that triggers Martin’s possessive rage.
After years of being a prisoner in Martin’s beautifully decorated and spacious home, Laura comes up with a plan to fake her own death to escape her hellish life. But even the best laid plans can unravel, and Laura’s past soon threatens the new life that she’s carved out for herself. Based on the novel by Nancy Price, Sleeping with the Enemy, though dubbed a “formulaic slasher film” by critic Roger Ebert upon its release is definitely not a slasher film (seriously, the comparison is ridiculous) but a very necessary critique at how prevalent domestic abuse is, how desperate victims can be, and how any woman can easily find herself in that situation. For many women, the person who swore to protect and love them is precisely the person whom they need protection from, and Sleeping with the Enemy teaches us many valuable lessons about not judging a book by its cover, and the secret lives of people who live in glass houses.
I give this one 4 stars.