Kieran Darcy-Smith‘s Sydney-based Wish You Were Here, which I saw this evening, is about the fallout from a tragic Cambodian vacation that married expecting parents Dave and Alice (Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price) have recently shared with Alice’s younger sister (Teresa Palmer) and her new boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Star).
(l.) Wish You Were Here co-writer Felicity Price as Alice; (r.) Teresa Palmer as Steph.
Jeremy vanished at the end of the getaway and nobody seems to know (or be able to admit) what happened, although it’s obvious that Dave knows and will eventually spill the beans by Act Three.
But the film is mainly about the reaction of Alice to a brief instance of infidelity that also happened in Cambodia. The kind of infidelity that happened so quickly with both parties so drunk or stoned that neither party remembers much. The minute Alice learns of this you’re muttering “oh, Christ, here we go.” Her anger gradually becomes a drag to be around. Not that it’s wrong or unnatural for her to be outraged, but that it becomes tedious — the same piano chord played over and over. If you remember Jean Tripplehorn‘s prolonged Defcon-5 reaction to Tom Cruise‘s infidelity in The Firm, you have a general idea what happens here. After a while I started muttering to myself “get over it, for God’s sake…it wasn’t planned, it was just beach sex, they were drunk and they’re both really sorry…Jesus.”
So basically you have a horse-faced pregnant wife who can’t let this one bad thing go, and a seriously fetching and tormented sister named Steph you’d like to hang with more and a good-looking missing guy whom you’d also like hang with a bit more. But Steph has been relegated to the sidelines and Jeremy is missing,. So we’re stuck with angry horseface Alice and conflicted, shaggy-faced Dave going through the pains of hell because he hasn’t told the truth to anyone about what really happened.
I’m sorry if this sounds like a primitive reaction, but Wish You Were Here is not my idea of a noir. This is basically a domestic marital guilt drama that should have tried to be more than this.
It’s basically a “get away from me, you fucked my sister!” movie with side-plot about what happened in Cambodia. It’s about the cost of suppressing the truth and not coming clean, and the cost of coming clean about meaningless infidelity. This is a fairly decent film as far as it goes (nicely composed, well acted, a fascinating montage of Cambodia), but I would have written a different story. Sorry.