Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Australian filmmaking collective Blue Tongue Films - including Joel and Nash Edgerton, David Michod and Spencer Susser, among others - has carved a solid thriller niche, moving up from acclaimed shorts, including Spider and Crossbow, to well-received full-length features, including crime drama Animal Kingdom and modern noir The Square.

Wish You Were Here enters similar territory, and although actor Kieran Darcy-Smith doesn't manage to scale quite the same heights, there are signs - especially in the first half an hour of his feature film directorial debut - that with more power under the plotting bonnet he could well create something more memorable in future.

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The first 15 minutes or so are excellent, with a kaleidoscopic, beautifully edited montage quickly rooting us in the colour and viscera of Cambodia, where Alice (Felicity Price, who co-scripted the film) and Dave Flannery (Joel Edgerton) have gone on an impromptu holiday with Alice's sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr). This sense of relaxed enjoyment and sensual overload, not all of it legal, is sharply undercut by a final scene of brooding menace that sets the tone for the rest of the film.

As Dave wanders half-naked across the Cambodian equivalent of a 'blasted heath' it's clear that something has gone very wrong indeed. Jeremy, we discover is missing but with the others fearing what might happen to them if the police get wind of the fact they were all taking Ecstasy, there's only so far they are prepared to go to find out what happened to him.

The trouble is, if you are going to present an audience with a slow-burn plot and non-linear development then you need to make sure it maintains a smouldering intensity and gives a decent blast of pay-off at the end. The pacing and tone never quite settle into a natural rhythm, as the initial hints of psychological thriller give way to the more domesticated drama of emotional torment, secrets and lies. The acting is unwaveringly excellent, particularly from Palmer and Price and you can virtually hear the creak of emotional eggshells as Alice and Dave try to come to terms with what has happened. But there's a sense of the film developing a 'holding pattern' of broodiness to keep us occupied until the denoument, rather than any real progress being made or insight offered. It isn't that the emotional drama doesn't work in its own right, it just never quite gels with the more cliched thriller elements.

Attempts to ginger the action up with a subplot involving Cambodian heavies are also underdeveloped, so that there is a constant feeling that too much is going on in areas of the film that don't hold the interest, while not enough is happening in the major storyline that does. When the dam finally breaks it does so with a rush that still doesn't manage to overwhelm the sense of disappointment at its 'is that all?' reveal. Despite moments of excellence, especially early on, I couldn't help wishing that it had more of finale.

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2012
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Wish You Were Here packshot
Four friends embark on a carefree holiday, but only three return home. Who knows what happened on that fateful night?
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Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith

Writer: Kieran Darcy-Smith, Felicity Price

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Antony Starr

Year: 2012

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Australia


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