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Wish You Were Here

June 9, 2013
Wish You Were Here

Why can’t we get movies like Wish You Were Here at mainstream multiplexes? It’s not like Joel Edgerton is unknown to American audiences. There’s sex, drugs, and violence, which audiences usually love in their thrillers. They’re even speaking English. All I can come up with is that the major theater chains have been so effectively captured by American movie studios that unless you live near an independent cinema you’re simply not allowed to see good, solid moviemaking like this.

Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation to recover from your vacation? Dave and Alice Flannery (Edgerton and co-writer Felicity Price) do. They’re coming back to Sydney from a week’s holiday in Cambodia, and neither of them seems quite ready to deal with their old, familiar surroundings yet. They went along with Alice’s sister, Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her new boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Starr), who imports all sorts of stuff into Australia from East and Southeast Asia. It was supposed to be a last fling for them before Alice delivers their third child, but something has gone wrong. Jeremy has gone missing, and Steph is still in Cambodia trying to get the authorities to find him.

As we move forward, we also start to look back. There was a beachfront dance party, where some of them took ecstasy and Dave tried unloading the rest of his stash; might that have had something to do with it? There were indiscretions between Dave and Steph; did Jeremy see and go off to sulk? What can they, or should they, admit to the AFP — Australia’s equivalent of the FBI?

And then there are more ominous hints. Dave’s license is gone, too. He starts seeing a certain red car over and over around the streets of Sydney. Things get more and more tense between Dave and Alice, who starts drinking more, pregnancy or no. Dave starts having panic attacks.

Slowly, but surely, writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith unwinds the tale, cutting between the descent of the Flannerys’ marriage and the memories of that fateful night that Dave can’t leave behind in Cambodia, and the morning that sees him wake in fright. It’s a taut, engaging thriller, and it’s a shame that most Americans won’t get a chance to see it.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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