Howard has a loving wife (Garner), two daughters, a prestigious job as a Manhattan lawyer, and a comfortable home in the suburbs. But inwardly he’s suffocating, and eventually he snaps and goes into hiding in his garage attic leaving his family to wonder what happened to him. He observes them from his window – an outsider spying in on his own life – as the days of exile stretch into months. Is it possible to go back to the way things were?
User Reviews: Bailing out on their family for an extended period of time is something universal in the remote fantasy of husbands who have an almost breakdown as they think of the responsibilities weighing on them. Robin Swicord’s adaptation of E. L. Doctorow’s short story Wakefield depicts in a measured and thoughtful way its titular lawyer, Howard (Bryan Cranston), hiding out for months in the attic of his garage as he watches the drama unfold of his wife (Jennifer Garner) and his two children.
Nothing big happens in this small film but his growing a beard and his diving into dumpsters. However, if you’re up for it, it can induce you to think what it would be like to watch your family respond to your absence and eventually witness them learn to live without you.
As the film makes painfully apparent, they can get along perfectly well, thank you. So Howard’s prevalent voice-over becomes the true conflict as he struggles with thoughts of his wife, leaving her, and the course he has now set as an absentee. Otherwise that voice-over and talking to himself seem like cheap ways to neglect showing what happens.
Although he realizes he may no longer return to the law firm because of his lengthy absence and negative thoughts about his fellow man, Howard nonetheless makes strategic observations about kindness in general and the love of his family in particular.
Cranston is aces at projecting a world-weary but successful professional who needs a time out. And his performance is the only solid reason to recommend this otherwise unsurprising little film.