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Sundance Reviews: Aussie Opener ‘Wish You Were Here’ Earns Mixed Response

Sundance Reviews: Aussie Opener 'Wish You Were Here' Earns Mixed Response

With some references to the plot of “The Hangover II” (Hollywood Reporter, LA Times), Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Sundance opener relates the aftermath of three friends’ lives after one goes missing on a trip to Cambodia. Led by Joel Edgerton (“The Warrior” and Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming “The Great Gatsby”), the film was criticized for weak plotting, but praised for its performances and production value.  (Review round up below).

The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney

The visceral fireworks of the characters’ arguments and the disintegration of trust among them are observed with unsettling intimacy in the script and in the emotional honesty of the performances. In its mature examination of the corrosive effects of crisis on the fabric of family life, and also in its defining sense of place, Wish You Were Here at times recalls another Australian film, Ray Lawrence’s superb 2001 psychodrama Lantana.

The Playlist, Todd Gilchrist

While we’ll leave it to you to uncover what secrets lie in its overwrought, undernourished dramaturgy, the film commits a fatal error in its final moments by ascribing its characters improbable behavior, explaining it with one-dimensional, five cent justifications, and resolving the whole mess with a glossy simplicity as reassuring as it is superficial. Ultimately, it lacks the structural ingenuity to make its concept work, and the character texture and substance to make audiences care… Darcy-Smith does accomplish one rare feat with “Wish You Were Here” — he somehow manages to tell a story that’s simultaneously mysterious and mostly uninteresting.

Variety, John Anderson

Despite its dubious inhabitants, the film consistently entertains by throwing the kinds of curves one should see coming but doesn’t… It’s unlikely that auds will be able to predict the outcome, or that they’ll even be inclined to try: Things move with an alacrity that will give viewers plenty to think about in the moment.

LA Times, Steven Zeitchik

Dramatic thrillers can be tough terrain. Tilt things in a character direction and you lose the suspense; get too caught up in the mystery and you forget about the people. But the filmmakers said they consciously tried to make a movie that worked on both levels… Then Darcy-Smith, sharing an impulse that film buyers will surely appreciate, added that this didn’t mean ignoring the thriller elements. “It’s about kicking a ball up in the air and keeping the audience…caring.”

Screen International, Tim Grierson

Guilt and sorrow hang heavy over the characters’ heads in Wish You Were Here – too heavily, unfortunately. A character drama about two Australian couples who go on vacation to Cambodia – with one of them ending up missing – the feature debut of director/co-writer Kieran Darcy-Smith doesn’t lack for furrowed-brow seriousness, but ultimately the depths being explored aren’t nearly as incisive or startling as its makers think.

HitFix, Drew McWeeny

At heart, “Wish You Were Here” is an effective piece about the way secrets can serve as a cancer in a marriage.  It’s well-performed across the board, it’s incredibly well-shot, and I think much of it works in terms of tone and mood.  There are some major plot issues that you have to forgive, though, and it might be enough to derail the experience for some viewers.

Rotten Tomatoes page here.


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