Wish You Were Here is a dark drama which follows the fractured relationships of three Australians – Dave (Joel Edgerton), Alice (Felicity Price) and Steph (Teresa Palma) – after one of their companions disappears whilst on holiday in Cambodia. Upon their return home, a web of deceit tangles all involved as more and more secrets come to the surface.
Wish You Were Here is another ﬁlm produced by the Australian company Blue Tongue Films, which has steadily generated a number of high quality features, such as Animal Kingdom (2010) and forthcoming film The Rover (2014), and well-known short films such as Spider (2007). Wish You Were Here is the debut ﬁlm from actor-turned-writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith and it is clearly an actor’s ﬁlm. After an intense introductory journey through the alien territory of Cambodia and a drug-fuelled party on the beach, the narrative returns to a normal domestic suburb in Australia. From this point onwards, the ﬁlm adopts a relatively slow pace to allow the cast to explore, establish and question complex relationships as revelation after revelation comes to light. The overarching mystery of what happened to their friend Jeremy (Antony Starr) dips in and out of the spotlight through countless twists and turns, some of which feel rather forced. The cast, however, work brilliantly together; Edgerton and Price are able to play the happy wedded couple in the ﬂashbacks and turn up the intensity as their marriage crumbles.
The cinematography is fairly functional, and appears to be a conscious choice by Darcy-Smith to keep the focus on the actors. The creative decisions about precisely what to capture are particularly interesting; whilst some of Sydney’s glorious natural beauty is portrayed, the ﬁlm never bogs the audience down with cinematic shots of the Opera House or other world famous landmarks. Instead, the film explores the suburbs in an attempt to create a universal, rather than Australian, piece and succeeds in doing so.
The most enjoyable and commendable aspect of this ﬁlm is the narrative construction and its level of intensity. The mystery slowly builds throughout as to what events really took place in the haze of a drug-ﬁlled Cambodian night, but we are kept interested through well-placed snippets of the holiday and the current situation the characters are forced to deal with. The very power from this story structure is that it is extremely low-key, avoiding the usual thriller clichés that an audience might expect of a missing person ﬁlm. It is essentially a kitchen sink drama that relishes dramatic interaction over punching and kicking. Certain viewers may ﬁnd the ﬁlm anti-climatic but the drama in Wish You Were Here is to be found in the performances.
UK DVD release: Monday 12th May 2014 via Metrodome Distribution.