I’ve been anxious to get my hands on ‘Wish You Were Here’ for about a year now. I heard about it last year when it was released in Australia and heavily anticipated a stateside release for an awards run in 2012, but that didn’t happen. Despite going on to win a slew of Australian awards (for everything from writing to acting) the film didn’t catch on with American audiences when it was finally released in June of this year. It never reached a theater near me, and so I patiently waited for the DVD release. I found myself checking my Netflix ‘saved queue’ every week, waiting for word on a release date and then finally it got bumped to the top of my queue and it landed at my front door the beginning of the week.
I’ve been on the Joel Edgerton train for a while now. I’ll admit right here and now that he is the reason I was awaiting the film with such anticipation. He’s a staggeringly good actor, not to mention an incredibly handsome man, and he just drips with screen presence. Watching his star slowly rise has been a dream, and with this film and his phenomenal turn in ‘The Great Gatsby’, he’s had a banner year so far.
2014 looks even better.
So, Edgerton is what drew me to ‘Wish You Were Here’, and while he is brilliant in the film, he isn’t the only thing that kept me watching. In fact, this is an exceptional ensemble who works wonderfully within the confines of the film itself. While the narrative is slightly fractured due to the constant flashbacks and oddly fit construction of the film, the performances drive so much of the intention home and make this an unforgettable ride that asks some very provocative questions without forcing us to come to a definite answer. The open-ended morality of it all feels very intentional, and that makes for an even more impactful finish.
The film tells the story of two couples who suffer a tragic loss while on vacation in South-East Asia. Dave and Alice are happily married with two children and one on the way. Alice’s sister Steph is newly interested in a young business man named Jeremy who wants her to travel with him to Asia on business. She convinces her sister and brother-in-law to tag along for moral support and the four wind up having a bang-up time. The only problem is, only three of them return home to Australia.
Jeremy is missing.
As the plot unfolds the film weaves in flashbacks from their trip with their current debacle, which can get a tad confusing. As secrets are told (there are more than one) and relationships are strained, the film asks some seriously poignant questions about guilt, betrayal and forgiveness, and it questions moral obligations with some sharply placed facial features.
Like I said, the actors really sell this film.
Edgerton is on a whole other level here, caging so much emotion and brooding to massive effect, only to unleash such unbridled grief at the film’s climax. Felicity Price, who also co-wrote the film, is devastating as his confused and heartbroken wife, and Teresa Palmer serves as a complicated cypher between the two. The film’s cinematography is astounding, some of the best I’ve seen all year, and the way that the film works itself over your eardrums (crawling into your body) makes this film stick in ways I didn’t expect.
I’d give this an easy B+ and recommend it to everyone. As far as Oscar chances, this has absolutely none, but it really should be in contention for Lead Actor and Cinematography for starters, and those original songs by Tim Rogers are haunting!