Australian thriller Wish You Were Here works as a cautionary tale about burying dark secrets, yet its distractive structure weakens its overall impact.
What is it with Australian’s getting caught up in messy matters while on holiday? Recent years has seen the cases of Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine who were all convicted of drug smuggling in Bali, and only last year the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported that on any day diplomats will be dealing with up to1600 Aussies in trouble while overseas.
It’s a question no doubt on the mind of director/co-writer Kieran Darcy-Smith and actress/co-writer Felicity Price when they wrote his story about four friends who holiday in Cambodia, only for three to return.
The drama is mainly focused on David (Joel Edgerton). He’s holding a secret which threatens to destroy his marriage with Alice (Felicity Price), who is trying to piece together the clues of that night her sister’s (Teresa Palmer) boyfriend (Antony Starr) went missing.
Bit by bit clues are revealed to us via flashbacks about what happened on the fateful week abroad. The use of flashback is always a tricky one and Wish You Were Here clumsily handles the vice thanks to its clunky structure where the shifts from light to dark, past to present ruin the pacing and atmosphere that Darcy-Smith needed to make his film work.
What do work are the performances. Edgerton plays a closed book very well, the weight of secrets concealed rendering him into a jittery mess. Good too is Price, whose Alice has to bear the brunt of bad news coming from all directions, and does so with the right mixture of anger and confusion.
Darcy-Smith (an actor himself with over 30 credits to his name) proves himself to be an actor’s director. He handles character and captures emotion very well, with Wish You Were Here filled with an abundance of both.
Once again, his kryptonite is structure. The fear and hard hitting revelations which Wish You Were Here should conjure and floor us are diluted by the wobbly architecture of this thriller. All good thrillers have a solid base. The great ones are able to build upon it and maintain our interest through nail biting storytelling.
Wish You Were Here had the material and the actors to do so. Perhaps a new cut might make this solid thriller an exceptional one.