While physically transplanting itself to a place far removed from the suburban crawl, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s feature debut is filled with an all-too-familiar angst.
The creative collaborative of Blue Tongue Films has dominated the Australian landscape over the last few years, with brothers Joel and Nash Edgerton recognisable ambassadors around the world. Together with David Michôd, Spencer Susser and Luke Dolan, the company has released films as diverse as the critically acclaimed Animal Kingdom and Hesher. Now Kieran Darcy-Smith brings his directorial debut to the group, smashing its way onto the scene as the opening film of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.
Soon to be parents, Alice (Felicity Price) and Dave (Joel Edgerton) decide to take their last opportunity to join Alice’s younger sister, Steph (Teresa Palmer), and her new boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Starr) on a spontaneous trip to Cambodia. After falling into the arms of the waiting country, Jeremy’s disappearance forces the three remaining friends to return to Sydney and go about their lives. However, the sudden return to normalcy reveals some uncomfortable truths for everyone, and the shadow of what really happened on that fateful night in Cambodia.
Beautifully shot and with strong performances from all of the leads, Wish You Were Here‘s not-entirely-linear structure creates a mystery often forgotten in local cinema. Darcy-Smith and partner Price’s script constructs its narrative around the secrets that each of the central figures holds, although this doesn’t always make for a cohesive story. The intrigue naturally lies in the fate of Jeremy, and there is an notion that at least one of the characters knows the truth. Instead, the film boldly chooses to shift its focus to the idea of having to live with the guilt of knowledge, perhaps tipping its hat somewhat to Dostoyevsky. The pervading sense of guilt would be a powerful motif if there was even a whiff of what it was Dave was guilty about. Instead, the film falls back on the familiar crutch of domestic disputes, as it really has nothing else to do until the final revelation.
Technically, Wish You Were Here is a strong debut for Darcy-Smith, making full use of seasoned cinematographer Jules O’Laughlin’s (Sanctum, Lucky Country) capable eye. Similarly, Rosie Chase’s score – peppered with three original songs from Tim Rogers – is an effective one, just as responsible for the mood as the actors. Yet the film is also often directionless and lost, relying all too often on melodrama rather than simply finding the genuine drama that is already within the story. However, as a member of the Blue Tongue posse, Darcy-Smith’s future is assured, and this certainly promises good things to come.
Wish You Were Here was released in Australia on 26 April 2012 from Hopscotch.