‘Wish You Were Here’: Open season on tourists

June 10, 2013

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A semi-jigsaw-puzzle of a story, Kieran Darcy-Smith’s “Wish You Were Here” bounces back and forth in time, while feeding the audience’s interest in an unsolved mystery. Even as it deals with a marriage hanging by a thread, it examines the nature of guilt and unveils new facets before finally revealing the conclusion.

The film stars Joel Edgerton and Felicity Price (who cowrote the script with Darcy-Smith) as Dave and Alice, Australians on holiday in Thailand with Alice’s sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her new boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Starr). But after a pre-credit sequence showing them all having a rollicking good time at the beach and Thai markets, we see just Dave and Alice upon their return.

Something obviously has gone horribly wrong; Jeremy is now been missing for more than a week and no one knows what happened to him. Steph stayed behind to help with the search. But she comes back empty-handed as well; though Australian law enforcement joins the investigation, no one seems to know anything.

This script is about secrets, as well as lies. Truth hurts in this tale but Darcy-Smith only parcels out the real story a little at a time. We begin to watch this marriage crumble under the weight of the revelations as they begin to leak out. Yet the guilt that drives the action ultimately is much deeper and wider than the viewer will expect.

Darcy-Smith slides back and forth in time in the story, gradually taking the covers off what really happened. Each new fact seems to change what it is we are seeing – yet the accumulation of information ultimately can’t prepare you for the shock of what really happened. What happens in Thailand may stay in Thailand, but the psychological scars live forever.

Edgerton continues to build his brand in the U.S. with films like “The Great Gatsby,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Warrior” – though he’s already a name in Australia, where this film was made. Price, as his wife, has a cheerful affect that turns dark as she begins to understand just who has done what to whom.

Ultimately, it’s a film that rewards patience and attention. The filmmaking will draw you into “Wish You Were Here” and the acting and story will keep you rooted to your seat.

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