Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Wander Darkly

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Wander Darkly
Directed by Tara Miele
U.S. Dramatic Competition

People die in movies all the time, and one of the advantages of cinema is that they don’t always have to stay dead. Flashbacks are one easy way to keep people alive, something that happens for many seasons on television long after a character’s death has been featured on screen. But there is also room for more existential exploration of where we go after death, probed in notions like heaven, purgatory, or hell, or with zombies and invisibility to keep characters present even if they’re nothing like what they were or can’t interact with anyone else. The how isn’t as important as the why, a reason that someone who should no longer exist is still very much a part of the story.

Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) live together and have a baby daughter. When an attempt at date night to repair their relationship results in a car crash, Adrienne awakens and finds herself experiencing events without her, including her funeral and Matteo’s subsequent abandonment of their daughter. Devastated, Adrienne is surprised when Matteo sees and speaks to her, assuring her that she is not dead even though no one else seems to know that she’s there. As a way of proving to her that she’s still alive, Matteo takes her back through the formative moments of their relationship, reminding her of how they fell in love and what they still have to look forward to in the years to come.

There is a hokiness to the way in which Adrienne sees the world around her proceeding without her in it, which dilutes from the seriousness of this film. Some of the moments feel highly choreographed and overly cinematic, with dialogue that just doesn’t work to explain what the audience is seeing. Yet other moments are truly poignant, and the concept of being able to review a history of shared memories has true resonance. There’s a beauty in the way that this film plays out, which is in turn devastating as Adrienne begins to grasp the reality of what’s happened.

Even if the film is inconsistent, its performances are solid. As Adrienne Miller is both so set on not letting go of what she’s had and not blindly accepting what anyone tells her, making her a compelling protagonist whose survival matters and means something. The charming Luna, most recently seen as a calculating businessman on “Narcos: Mexico,” argues as Matteo for the value and permanence of their relationship, regardless of what may have transpired to make them think that they’ve lost the chance to be together. Overall, this film works more than it doesn’t, exploring a mesmerizing perspective on loss.


No comments: