Whenever there is mention of the personal life of Albert Einstein, there are, inevitably, recollections of the happy years he spent with Elsa Lowenthal, his first cousin and second wife. But few will recall his first wife, Mileva Maric, a Serbian-born classmate who later claimed that she was a partner in providing him with some of the ideas that earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. Her claim was not taken seriously, mainly because there wasn’t a shred of evidence to back up her allegations.

I was reminded of this recently as I watched the elegant Glenn Close deal with a marriage that had much in common with Maric’s. She, too, met her husband at school: he was the creative writing professor who recognized her talent and encouraged her to continue to write. He, of course, was on his way to becoming the Great American Novelist and recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921. The movie, The Wife, is based on the book by Meg Wolitzer and it develops its plot-line so intensely that you have to believe it’s a semi-true story. Many women have lived through a story like this.

Close, as a woman named Joan Castleman, falls in love with the professor and leaves college to live with him in Greenwich Village while he divorces his wife. He is obviously in love with her, but his continual infidelities and her expanding role as his “caretaker” makes for a compromised marriage. She is the one who reminds him to take his pills and holds his coat at events where he engages in lively discussions while she stands beside him with a fixed smile and is ignored. After 40 years of marriage this behavior has begun to take its toll, and when he wins the Nobel Prize her long-subdued discontentment boils over.

As exquisitely played by Glenn Close (and if she doesn’t win an Oscar for this one, it just means that no one is paying attention), her performance is equaled by the passionate intensity of Jonathan Pryce, who plays her husband. He, who appears to have all the power in their relationship, is actually weakened by his insecurities and unexpressed resentment towards her, since she is the true author and editor of his books. They have kept this information a secret from the world, but her horror at his Nobel speech, in which he offers extravagant praise of her role as his supporter and inspiration, finally provokes her into leaving him. “I am not your Muse,” she shouts, and “That Nobel Prize belongs to me, not you!”

This engrossing film was adapted for the screen by Jane Anderson and directed by Swedish director and author Bjorn Runge. In addition to Close and Pryce, actors Christian Slater, Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, and Elizabeth McGovern enrich the story, but when all is said and done, this film belongs to Close. And to its enthralled audience.

“The Wife” opens this week in New York and Los Angeles and will open around the country shortly thereafter.