Wish You Were Here – Film Review
The production team behind the perfectly creepy and gripping crime thriller, Animal Kingdom (2010), has just recently released its latest feature, Wish You Were Here, a suspense laden mystery drama about a holiday in paradise gone horribly wrong.
Joel Edgerton and Felicity Price lead the cast as Sydney-sider couple Dave and Alice Flannery. Alice’s beach babe of a younger sister Steph, played by newcomer Teresa Palmer, convinces Alice to accompany her and her new boyfriend, Jeremy (Anthony Starr) on a week-long jaunt in exotic Cambodia. Craving some time away from the realities of work and kids, Alice and Dave agree. The trip proves to be everything they dreamed it would be; sun-soaked beaches, labyrinthine marketplaces, friendly locals and delicious cuisine (crispy fried tarantula on a stick anyone?), this all highlighted in a colourful opening montage which is bound to make any travel lover drool with jealousy. However, trouble surfaces in paradise on one of the last nights of their trip when a drug and alcohol fuelled beach party turns the tight-knit group of holiday makers from four into three.
The opening credits end as the holiday does, seeing our two protagonists, Dave and Alice, return to their Sydney home bringing with them the news that Jeremy is missing without a trace back in the remote town of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. Thus begins the slow unravelling of the mystery of what happened on hazy night on the beach which turned the dream holiday in paradise to the stuff of any traveller’s nightmares.
As the plot thickens and stress levels rise, a rift forms between Dave and Alice that threatens to tear apart their perfect family life, which includes two young children and one on the way. Both Edgerton and Price deliver raw and captivating performances as a couple fighting to stay together despite a heavy tangle of secrets and lies growing thicker with each day. Edgerton is on edge (excuse the pun) as Dave, avoiding speaking to the authorities as much as he possibly can and expressing to Alice his desire to find a new place for them and the kids before the new baby comes along. He clearly knows more than he is letting on and this knowledge is tormenting his mind, bringing the silently stoic man of the house to the brink of breakdown. With the subtlest of gestures and facial expressions, Edgerton lets us experience the fear and guilt that is weakening this everyday Aussie bloke as the mystery unfolds itself. With every role he takes on, Edgerton is proving himself more and more as a powerful actor with a complex emotional range, is one of our most impressive current exports. Price, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay with director Kieran Darcy-Smith, has appeared more often to date on Australian television, however Vulture expects to be seeing her on the silver screen much more often in the near future. As Alice, she presents us a character with stark contrasts; strong-willed and determined to be the glue that holds her family together and to retain some normality and routine in life, but also fragile and susceptible to vices such as alcohol as a means to help her deal with the dire circumstances that she, her husband and her sister are all facing.
Wish You Were Here is a taut and gripping suspense mystery that paces out its story in such a controlled way that it leaves you transfixed until the shattering climax. The film intersperses the present-day story with flashbacks from the holiday at crucial moments, a device which submerges the viewer in and out of the mystery, leaving us feeling just as stressed as the characters themselves and heightening our experience of the devastation of the situation. The lure of a tropical getaway to South East Asia is so commonplace for Australian audiences so the story of the film is one that is truly frightening in its believability and potential to happen to just about anyone. This is an accomplishment for Australian cinema which is well worth a look, although perhaps leave it for another time if you’re planning a trip to Cambodia anytime soon.