Review: Wish You Were Here (2013)

Wish You Were Here


Kieran Darcy-Smith
Kieran Darcy-Smith, Felicity Price
89 min.
Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price, Teresa Palmer, Anthony Starr, Nicholas Cassim, Otto Page, Isabelle Austin-Boyd, Tina Bursill, Wayne Blair, Valerine Bader, Pip Miller
MPAA Rating
R for language, some drug content, brief sexuality and violence

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When cineastes discuss international cinema, countries like France, Germany, Italy and Japan frequently enter the conversation. Little is made over the compelling revitalization of the Australian film industry in recent years, a part of which is Wish You Were Here a fascinating character thriller about a Cambodian vacation that goes horribly wrong.

Dave (Joel Edgerton) and Alice (Felicity Price) Flannery embarked on a vacation to Cambodia alongside her sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and Steph’s boyfriend Jeremy (Anthony Starr). After the Flannerys return home, a distraught Steph calls them up to reveal that Jeremy has gone missing and no one knows what’s happened to him. The aftermath is a frantic search for his location, which hampered by revelations of Dave’s infidelity and other matters that impair the investigation and do more damage to the lies of everyone involved than the truth behind the events of the evening he goes missing.

Edgerton is an incredibly talented actor. While his stateside work in the U.S. hasn’t been the stuff of legend, he has quietly amassed a strong tapestry of performances on Australian soil. He first came to our attention in David Michod’s thriller Animal Kingdom and would later go on to work with Baz Luhrmann in The Great Gatsby. Within these three performances you’ll find vastly different characters, each fractured in numerous ways, but struggling to achieve some semblance of sanity. As Edgerton’s Dave Flannery crumbles, we’re drawn into his frustrations and emotional distress. Even when he’s done despicable things, one can’t help empathize with him.

Darcy-Smith doesn’t do anything particularly grandiose with Wish You Were Here. His is a quietly unfolding thriller that peels back layers with simplicity and ease. If the film has one flaw, it’s that the frequent flashbacks aren’t easily distinguished from action in the present. He and editor Jason Ballentine still perform admirably even considering this undeniable flaw.

Perhaps its this less-than-perfect reputation that has kept Australia’s output from feeling like a potent international force. Along with Michod’s deeply flawed Animal Kingdom, Wish You Were Here showcases a bounty of talent onscreen and behind the camera. Perhaps the lack of focus n the Australian film industry keeps them from tightening the problems and delivering a more richly impressive array of features. To date, everything I’ve sen from the land down under has been impressive in one respect or another. They have a fascinating stream of output that needs further attention and examination.

Wish You Were Here owes a lot of its success to directors who’ve employed flashbacks with strong sensibility. While Darcy-Smith cannot hold a candle to many of those directors for he has no personal flourishes to mark his work as his own, he manages to pull off a thoughtful film that satisfies our need for drama while dipping into the themes of marital fidelity, faith, trust and the horrible memories that must be dealt with before one’s spirit crumbles and takes its loved ones with it.
Review Written
May 15, 2014

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