Wish You Were Here
Directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith
The phrase “Wish you were here” immediately conjures up images of postcards and tropical locations. That’s exactly what the serene opening scene of Kieran Darcy-Smith’s new film does, as Alice (Felicity Price) and Jeremy (Antony Starr) lie together on the beach in Cambodia discussing what makes them happiest. The ensuing scene, which features Alice’s husband Dave (Joel Edgerton) walking alone through a wasteland without much of his clothing, shifts the film’s tone abruptly to that of a haunting, intimate drama shrouded in uncertainty and mystery as Jeremy’s friends struggle to return to a sense of normalcy following his disappearance during their vacation.
This is the first feature film from Australian director Darcy-Smith, and his first writing collaboration with star Price. Their original screenplay centers on Alice and Dave’s return to Australia following their trip, and the worsening of their relationship as details of the night Jeremy disappeared come to light. Alice’s younger sister, Steph (Teresa Palmer), has an equally difficult time adjusting since she was romantically involved with Jeremy, and has a complicated relationship with both her sister and her husband. What ensues is an unsettling but deeply compelling look at these three people as they unravel in the face of a crisis, equal parts psychological study and plot-driven drama.
Price is likely a fresh face for American audiences, while the film’s other three stars are well-known stateside, but their real accents might prove more surprising. Edgerton has appeared recently in films like “The Great Gatsby” and “Zero Dark Thirty” boasting an American accent, as has Palmer, who broke out in “Warm Bodies” earlier this year. Starr, who hails from New Zealand, has found himself a staple TV role on Cinemax as the decidedly American main character on “Banshee.” It’s great to see these three actors at home in their element, equally capable in their original accents as in their international roles.
“Wish You Were Here” is in many ways a simple drama that achieves its emotional resonance by honing in on its characters, keeping its story uncomplex and instead exploring the dynamics that link its protagonists. Figuring out what actually happened to Jeremy is almost inconsequential because this film is much more about what happens after he goes missing, and how the absence of someone Alica, Dave, and even Steph hardly knew transforms their lives. It’s a thought-provoking, compelling film that makes the most of a basic but effective premise.