Laura (Julia Roberts) seems to have it all. A darkly handsome husband (Patrick Bergin), a beautiful ocean front home on the beach, leisure time. Her secret is her husband Martin’s ruthless control over her. Laura walks on eggshells around Martin, who says they will be together forever. His domination of her extends even to the compulsive way he expects her to have the household arranged, towels straight, cupboards in order.
Martin loses Laura in a tragic boating accident because she doesn’t swim. But the audience is let in on her “rescue” before Martin even becomes aware of it. A strong heroic woman has been hiding within her, and Laura has been planning her escape for some time. She secretly learned to swim to save herself, both literally and metaphorically.
When Ben (Kevin Anderson), her next-door neighbor in her new life attempts to befriend her, she at first pushes him away. But her capacity to love and be loved wins over and she begins to allow him into her life.
Meanwhile, Martin is able to pull strands of Laura’s life together and believes she is alive. He sets out to hunt her down, the ultimate creepy figure who will stop at nothing to have her. Martin is the type of man who would scream before he kills his woman and then turns the gun on himself, “If I can’t have her, then no one can.”
All three lead characters’ performances are superb. Ben is fun loving, patient and warm as Laura tentatively starts to open up to him and take risks. Julia Roberts as Laura, shakes with her hands on the gun as if it were really her that the dark man who was her husband was stalking. Martin is sinister and foreboding.
The story had to move along to tell the truth about battered women and how they struggle to be set free from their abusive men, but the story line of Laura’s mother’s blindness is too convenient and contrived. Even so, we cheer for Laura and Ben at the end, just as we cowered in our seats knowing Martin was getting closer to finding Laura again.
Sleeping with the Enemy is a thriller with a message. Don’t miss it.