You’re not supposed to look back.
Director Julia Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz waste no time making sure Jean’s (Rachel Brosnahan) introduction tells us everything we need to know. There she is sitting in her backyard staring off into space and thinking about how empty her life has become. She’s so bored that an urge to rip the tags off her new robe walks her into such a rage that her husband Eddie (Bill Heck) finds her sitting on the kitchen counter with a carving knife at the ready to sever the canvas strip once and for all. And it’s at that moment that Jean realizes she’ll never again be caught watching the clock move at a glacial pace because in his arms is an unfamiliar baby. He says it’s their baby. Her baby.
What had been quiet days filled with nothing suddenly become scream-riddled mornings and evenings with little sleep and yet Jean’s instantly aware that it’s everything she hoped for after years of being unable to have her own. Like most of I’m Your Woman, however, what we know is a far cry from what we don’t. A couple beats go by and we learn Eddie is a criminal. A couple more and Jean is being woken up in the middle of the night to pack two-hundred thousand dollars and get into a stranger’s car (Arinzé Kene‘s Cal). Is Eddie in trouble? Is he dead? Is Cal someone she can trust? Or does he have something to do with this chaos? And where did this baby really come from anyway?
With most of its two-hour runtime still to go, those answers will arrive. What they deliver might not be what you expect, though. Because the more Jean realizes Eddie kept her insulated from possessing the wherewithal to ask those questions before it became too late and thus have the opportunity to walk away, the more she figures out who she is beneath his desires. Maybe it’s telling a lie to get the police off the scent of her escape. Maybe it’s the desire to hold a gun and pull the trigger even if the bullet doesn’t come close to hitting its target. Maybe it’s something as simple as driving a car. She so desperately wanted to be a mother and wife that she forgot how to be herself.
If there was ever a crash course to figuring out one’s own identity, hiding all alone with a baby as a fugitive from men hoping to torture and kill her for Eddie’s location is it. Welcome to days upon days of trying to break an egg without smashing the yolk, the constant routine of stroller walks to get young Harry to sleep, and deadbolts to help her hold firm to Cal’s warning about not making any friends. Will she have the mettle to do what needs to be done if things go south? Will she be able to cope with the steady stream of new truths that Eddie kept hidden from her? Will she somehow save the lives of those inexplicably risking their own for hers?
Much like Hart’s previous film Fast Color, I’m Your Woman proves to be a lot more than its genre underpinnings. We’ve all seen gangster movies set in the 1970s wherein someone’s caught in the crosshairs of a crime boss’ gun, but few if any position the collateral damage as their narrative focus. That’s what Jean is, though. She’s a side character to the antihero doing his damnedest to escape with his life and yet she’s been thrust into the spotlight to fulfill the human complexity writers too often ignore in lieu of manipulative deaths manufacturing emotional impulses. Add the hired hand (Cal), not-so-innocent bystanders (Marsha Stephanie Blake‘s Teri and Frankie Faison‘s Art), and a crying baby to receive the less flashy yet equally crucial side of a familiar premise.
With ample character-based twists and turns popping up as a result of Eddie’s disappearance forcing “White Mike” (James McMenamin) to pressure anyone who ever breathed the same air as him, there’s no real chance to disengage from the suspense despite a methodical pace refusing to gloss over the fact that Jean isn’t quite ready to do what she’s being forced to do. The way she welcomes strangers into her life out of fatigue only to later raise her suspicions to high alert the second she realizes what she’s done keeps her (and us) in a perpetual state of fight or flight. But she does find people to trust even if they can’t trust her. And she realizes the price of living in this world is steeper than malaise.
Broshnahan is great in the lead role as she traverse Jean’s new existence by finding the capacity to do whatever it takes to not only survive, but also protect little Harry. She’ll have to choose who else is worth saving along the way too by weighing the reality that strangers may have more in common with her than the people she loved. Both Blake and Kene prove essential to this realization as their desire to keep the details of their lives a secret from her expose the danger of her circumstances and theirs for daring fate to become her protectors. That Hart and Horowitz can unravel a simple premise into this complex web of cyclical progressions and endearingly complicated lives is a testament to their talents.
Rather than an ending—as these things usually prove with their Eddies at the center to either escape or perish—I’m Your Woman becomes a beginning. Life or death is still a fifty-fifty shot for Jean, but there won’t be any regrets since this predicament isn’t of her own making. You could argue that Cal and Teri’s inclusion is theirs, but they’d never have changed the choices they made years ago with hindsight. They too sought a new beginning and did whatever it took to acquire it. That they’re here now to assist Jean in hers isn’t therefore a punishment as much as it is their price. So while the danger is external, what everyone does in response isn’t. Their eyes are open and their motivations are pure.
 RACHEL BROSNAHAN and ARINZE KENE star in I’M YOUR WOMAN Photo Courtesy of Amazon Studios
 ARINZE KENE stars in I’M YOUR WOMAN Photo: Wilson Webb Courtesy of Amazon Studios
 FRANKIE FAISON, DE’MAURI PARKS, and MARSHA STEPHANIE BLAKE star in I’M YOUR WOMAN Photo: Wilson Webb Courtesy of Amazon Studios