Movie Review – Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here - movie review
(Image from here)

It’s not often that I get to the movies these days, but every now and then the stars align and I get the opportunity.  On Sunday night those stars were all in the right spot, my friend had half price tickets, Mr Good didn’t have footy or work and everyone was well.  So for perhaps the first time since the arrival of Baby Good I went out in the late afternoon and evening leaving Mr Good to deal with arsenic hour, dinner, bath and bedtimes.

The film was Wish you were here, an Australian film starring Joel Edgerton and Felicity Price.  The last film I saw with Joel Edgerton was Animal Kingdom with Jackie Weaver, it was brilliant!  Ever since I’ve admired Edgerton’s acting skills and the interesting roles he takes on.  While this film certainly wasn’t of the same calibre as Animal Kingdom it was another interesting, intense and emotional role and his performance was strong.

The story goes like this (as they say on Playschool, Miss Three is watching it as I write this): Four friends take off for a care-free holiday in a remote coastal town in Cambodia.  Actually, I say friends but really it is married couple Dave (Edgerton) and Alice (Price), Alice is expecting their third child in a few months, Alice’s sister Steph and her relatively new boyfriend Jeremy.  The reason for the trip and the particular destination is that Jeremy has business dealings with some locals to arrange and can write off the trip for the four of them.  Jeremy’s business dealings are somewhat vague, importing and exporting I think is how it would be labelled officially.  After an evening of drinking, dancing and taking drugs (all except the pregnant Alice that is), Jeremy disappears and the other three return to Australia without him.

The rest of the film is spent unraveling the mystery surrounding Jeremy’s disappearance, while the lives of the other three characters fall apart around them.  It’s not a fast paced film, it’s subtle and filled with endless anxiety and tension.  Along the way small clues are revealed to the viewer, by way of flash backs usually, each time adding only a small piece to the puzzle.

The performances of both Edgerton and Price hold the film together and without them it could have fallen very flat.  It is the relationship between Dave and Alice that draws the viewer in and engages them with the story and the characters in it.  What is it that’s eating Dave up from the inside and why can’t he let Alice in?  That said the resolution of the story, while answering all the necessary questions, didn’t add greatly to the overall experience.  It’s difficult to write about this film in any more detail without giving away vital parts of the mystery, so I’ll leave it there in terms of the storyline.

Aside from the actual plot these was one thing that really bugged me.  At one point Dave suggests moving house to somewhere bigger, though the house already appeared pretty big to me.  The house and in particular the views (and the kitchen, oh the envy!) were AMAZING, harbour views in Sydney, need I say more.  What bugged me was that Dave was an apparently struggling boat builder and Alice worked part time teaching English to migrants.  They debated how they could afford the holiday and were saving up to replace Alice’s relatively old car with another, bigger one before the baby arrived.  How on earth could they afford that house?  I want reality in a film like this and that house just didn’t match the circumstances.  I couldn’t understand why they didn’t locate the film in suburban Sydney, in fitting with the characters.  I’m also drawn to films depicting suburbia and those living there in ways that aren’t all they appear (Alexandra’s Project anyone?  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, though not if you want something light) so I think suburbia would have been a better and more realistic location for this film.

I did enjoy this film and if I was into stars it would probably get about three.  It’s Australian which is a big tick for me, it is certainly mysterious, the underlying tension succeeds in drawing in the audience, but it’s not what I would call gripping.  I think that’s a pretty fair assessment.

Interestingly, I saw this film at the Palace cinema in Westgarth, and before the main feature they showed a short film called The Palace.  The staff gave us a synopsis for the film, told us to read it as there had been complaints and warned us that it was a bit ‘graphic’.  We did read the passage, decided to see it and then sat in shock.  The warning didn’t really account for what was shown.  The film was set in Cyprus in 1974 during a bloody conflict.  It depicts a family fleeing for their lives and a young soldier, obviously conscripted into service, confronting the brutality of war and his part in it.  We were expecting war-like violence, which we got.  We weren’t expecting to see the slow and torturous death of an infant, it was horrific and that final image stayed with me for days.  Even with the warning I was not prepared, I would have preferred not to see it and I can understand why they had had complaints.  On the other hand, it was based on real events and I see the importance of telling these stories (like telling holocaust stories).  The film won many awards and has found critical acclaim, probably deservedly so, it was a brave film to make.  But I wander about the decision to show this before another, very different, film rather than in it’s own right, or with a series of other short films.

Anyone else seen a film lately?  Good, bad, indifferent?  What do you look for in a good film?  And what do you think of Australia films?

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4 Responses to Movie Review – Wish You Were Here

  1. Liz says:

    I have a few films this year: Mission Impossible 17 (well it feels like that many) – accidently as we missed the start of Iron Lady due to a flat tyre and this was showing. I have to say I really enjoyed it if nothing else for the sight of Tom Cruise running – very funny indeed. The Descedents which I liked a lot – entertaining character based drama and I do find George Clooney very watchable. The BEst Exotic Marigold Hotel which I enjoyed, I think it could have been a lot better with a couple less characters but it was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. As for Australian films I have to say I think that they try too hard most of the time. Where are the films like Priscilla, Muriels Wedding, Strictly Ballroom? Everything Australian I have seen in the last 10 years seems to either be designed to shock me or ímpress’ me both of which I’m not particulary interested in. I did enjoy My Year without Sex but I can’t think of another relatively recent Australian film that I’ve really liked. But then my memory isn’t what it used to be…

    • Barbara Good says:

      Three outstanding Aussie flicks you’ve mentioned there. Good Australian films now are fewer than in the 90s (Proof, The Castle and Shine also in that period) though I have enjoyed a few more recent ones – Animal Kingdom as I mentioned, Red Dog (mostly for the dog and great scenery), Lantana, Alexandra’s Project, Swimming Upstream, Ten Canoes, Jinderbyne, Balibo. Some might fit your designed to shock category – sometimes I don’t mind that – and perhaps some try a bit too hard. But I love hearing Australian accents and language style on screen, it’s so refreshing after being constantly drowned out by American and English accents.

  2. I did mentally write this film down to see the film later some time. I love Australian films, and it’s interesting to read of your take of this one.
    Last movie I saw though?…oh, I have no idea! I have just finished season four of mad men though- love it!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Oh I’ve been meaning to get into Mad Men, now I think I’ll have to. Going to the movies certainly becomes a luxury in the new baby phase doesn’t it, I bet you’ll really enjoy it when you get to see one whenever that happens.

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