Wednesday, 18 April 2012
FILM REVIEW: WISH YOU WERE HERE
When four relatively young Aussies venture to Cambodia for a south-east Asian holiday, hedonism is a given. But party in haste, repent at leisure, and so it is when only three of them return.
What happened to the fourth member of their party on that final fateful night is teased out over the course of the thriller/domestic drama, Wish You Were Here, the directorial debut of Australian actor, Kieran Darcy-Smith.
The Flannerys, Dave (Joel Edgerton) and Alice (Felicity Price), are a middle class couple from Sydney's eastern suburbs, who live just a stone's throw from the beach with their two young children and a third on the way. He makes boats and she teaches English as a second language; life for the Flannerys is typical yet fairly ideal.
But when Alice's younger sister, Steph (Teresa Palmer), invites them along on holiday with her new boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Starr), a good looking guy with business interests in south east Asia, it marks the beginning of the end of that suburban idyll.
Drinking and drug-taking ensues while overseas and on the night before they are due to return to Australia, Jeremy disappears. A result of a drug overdose? An accident while swimming? Or perhaps it had something to do with his business dealings?
Darcy-Smith's film, co-written with partner Felicity Price, flashes back and forth between the events in Cambodia -- never revealing what happened to Jeremy until well into the third act -- and the slow but damaging fallout from those events for the three who return to their Sydney seaside suburb and try, miserably, to resume life as normal.
Guilt, paranoia and one big revelation sees the Flannerys' marriage begin to splinter, sending Alice in search of answers (often at the bottom of a wine glass) as Dave goes silent, retreating deeper and deeper inside himself. He's not too keen to go to the Federal Police either, perhaps because of the dark-windowed vehicle that appears to be shadowing him?
Some have made comparisons between Wish You Were Here and the earlier 2012 release, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and that's understandable, certainly from a structural point of view.
But where Sean Durkin's film, also a debut effort, was able to create a pervasive sense of dread, Darcy-Smith is unable to infuse his film with that same level of suspense. And the truth when it is revealed, is neither as shocking nor satisfying as the slow build-up has us expecting.
Still, Wish You Were here is a solid directorial debut for Darcy-Smith, and a satisfying enough drama which local audiences should gravitate towards, aided significantly by the involvement of Darcy-Smith's long time friend and colleague, Joel Edgerton (Edgerton's Blue-Tongue Films produced the film).
Edgerton, whose career is very much on the rise, brings some much needed box office clout to this local production (although not the same dramatic heft as he did in last year's Warrior, it must be said). His presence, and the relatively warm response to the film at this year's Sundance Film Festival, should ensure that less wishing than usual is required by local distributors when it comes to getting bums on seats for an Australian film.