In Brief: Wander Darkly wanders through the relationship of a couple after she’s dead. Or is she? Is he? And do you really care one way or the other whether either one of them have passed to the great beyond?
Sienna Miller and Diego Luna are an unmarried couple. They just had a kid and bought a home. What they aren’t sure of is each other.
On the way home from an uncomfortable party, they get into a bad car wreck. She dies and ends up in some sort of purgatory. Or did she die? You’re not sure. He’s also there and apparently died a few years later. Or did he?
Does that sound confusing? It is, and it’s deliberate confusion that two characters are forced to use to begin the process of working out their relationship. That translates into a bit over 90-minutes of back and forth dialogue. By mid-movie you’ll find it hard to care one way or the other whether they get there or not.
Fingers are pointed. Claims of infidelity are tossed about in sharp-tongued exchanges. Each accuses the other of not making them the focus of their life. Failure with their child enters into the arguing. Parents, careers and money aren’t far behind.
And on it goes.
This had to be a real challenge for Miller and Luna. Both are exceptional actors and have great chemistry. The dialogue is intense and while this isn’t an action movie, drama this emotional has to be physically draining.
Unfortunately, Wander Darkly wanders in territory that lots of other — better films — have wandered through. Writer/director Tara Miele got the idea when she barely survived a dangerous car crash herself.
On the surface — and as Miele channels her inner Terrence Malick — the concept is interesting. Like most of Malick’s films, the movie is as surreal as an out of body experience. Miele bounces her two characters from present to past and back.
This is a movie badly in need of some Ritalin. Miele never stops moving the camera nor her characters. It’s restless to the point of irritation. Intense exchanges are punctuated with uncomfortable closeups and a camera that whirls and twirls so much that it often distracts from the dialogue.
The dialogue is intense. Revealing. Brilliant sometimes. At other times, it’s tedious. The he-said-she-said gets too personal at points and makes you wish Miller and Luna would take their discussion somewhere else.
Director: Tara Miele
Stars: Sienna Miller, Diego Luna, Beth Grant, Brett Rice, Tory Kittles, Aimee Carrero
Rated R for language, mature themes and brief nudity. A real life event leads a writer/director to pen an other worldly drama that covers themes that have been better done in other, better movies. Miller’s character might be dead or might not be dead but this movie is dead and gets a 2 out of 5 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
If you’re in areas where theaters are open, Wander Darkly has opened in theaters. If theaters aren’t open in your area you can stream it on one of the usual streaming sources.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.