Review: ‘The Young Wife’

Kiersey Clemons Is An Anxious Bride-To-Be In Tayarisha Poe's Talent-Packed Second Feature

The Young Wife is a slow-building millennial panic attack. Set in a future that feels like a sleek Instagram fever dream, director Tayarisha Poe knows exactly what hot topics to hit, under the premise of a young woman who is about to get unofficially married. 

Celestina (Kiersey Clemons) is running her mother’s rural house trying to prepare it for her wedding, except she and her fiance are not officially tying the knot. Like most millennial women, she worries about her place as a wife, and whether being tied down would benefit her rather than her puppeteering/baker partner. 

Trying to ground her is her future grandmother-in-law, played by a purple-haired Judith Light. She not only provides levity but confirms her fears while dealing with her own desire to die. Against the marriage entirely is a radiant-looking Sheryl Lee Ralph, who seems to have a smile for everyone but her daughter. 

Guests file in, adding to the chaos and providing their own unwanted commentary on her life. They clearly judge her for quitting her job out of moral obligation yet provide little help around her house to prepare for the party. 

As the crowd in her house grows, her anxieties about the environment, the economy, the job she recently quit, her place in her marriage, and her fiance she can’t find, escalate. Interrupting the tension are frequent televised meditations that remind the audience to breathe. 

Poe packs the cast with recognizable faces you wouldn’t necessarily see in an experimental comedy. Besides Clemons, Light, and Ralph, Aya Cash (You’re The Worst/The Boys), Brandon Michael Hall (Search Party/ God Friended Me), Lukita Maxwell (Shrinking), and Kelly Marie Tran in a British accent as unrelenting comedic forces.  She also pulls from the sketch comedy world with the castings of comedian Sandy Honig and Saturday Night Live alums Jon Rudnitsky and Michaela Watkins. Soul singer Leon Bridges plays Celestina’s mysterious and mostly absent fiance who tries to ease her worries by staying in the present. 

Before The Young Wife, Poe directed various TV episodes like The Twilight Zone reboot and the musical comedy Dave. Her skills as a still photographer on the underrated Blow The Man Down show through the most in her second feature as each frame is beautiful to look at.

There’s a lot happening in The Young Wife, from the twinkling yet ominous electronic score to plenty of blue and purple lighting. It’s clear Poe has a vision as seen by her unique and impactful directing choices and her stellar cast. What that vision is isn’t always communicated to the audience but the feeling you get after you turn off the film is enough to keep an eye on this young ambitious director.

The Young Wife is available to rent and buy on digital platforms.

'The Young Wife'
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
young-wife-review-the-young-wifeA young bride's anxieties are beautifully explored in Tayarisha Poe's second feature.