Wish You Were Here
Billed as a thriller, actor Kieran Darcy-Smith’s first feature is a well-shot and deftly assembled drama that focuses on the emotional aftermath of a horrifying incident.
Co-written with star Felicity Price, "Wish You Were Here" is an Aussie import about four friends who go on a South-East Asian Holiday. Dave (Joel Edgerton) runs a boat business, pregnant wife Alice (Price) is an ESL-teacher, Alice’s sister Steph (Theresa Palmer) is a bit directionless, and her boyfriend of six weeks, Jeremy (Antony Starr), has a trinket business he does in Thailand. The four are having a terrific time until they all do Ecstasy one night and wake up the next day to find Jeremy missing.
The film opens with a shot of a shirtless Edgerton walking through the morning remnants of an outdoor party looking as though he’s seen a ghost. Immediately, we are back in Australia and seeing how Alice and Dave are getting on with their two kids. But the loss of Jeremy haunts them, and Steph - who has remained behind during the investigation - asks to come home. Once she does, secrets are revealed and things get tense. All the while, we as the audience are allowed flashback snippets about the trip until we eventually discover the fate of Jeremy.
The film is a simple one, and while it might seem from the trailer that it is a complicated mystery with unnerving riddles, this is really a story about three people dealing with their choices and trying to survive guilt. In that, the story succeeds. While the film is a bit of a downer from the opening shot almost until the end, it keeps your attention as the flashbacks pile up revealing motivations and predicaments that reveal our character’s fates.
But it is the interaction between the main leads that is most compelling. Edgerton works the hardest with a more challenging role as his character’s guilt is twofold. His character tries hard to maintain his family and his sanity, but it clearly gets more difficult for him to navigate. Price handles her role effectively given the secrets that are revealed to her and her screenplay works well in allowing us to see these characters in all their ugly truth. Palmer doesn’t have the bigger of the roles, but she is fine as a girl who just wants to be heard amongst everyone else’s pain.
Darcy-Smith (a well-known actor in Australia) handles his talent with grace and his cinematographer Jules O’ Loughlin ("Sanctum" and the upcoming series "Black Sails") gives the film a gritty, beautiful glow. Incidentally, Darcy-Smith was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, and the film has been nominated and won a slew of awards in Australia for Best Film, Directing, Writing, Cinematography, and Acting. At a swift 90-minutes, this is a powerful film with terrific performances and a calling card for an exciting new director.