Wish You Were Here
Opens Fri., June 21 at Varsity. Rated R. 93 minutes.
Everything is easier with flashbacks. Though they can make a film harder for us to follow, with sudden introductions and elisions of story matter, a shrewd director can complicate what’s not, in the end, a terribly complicated tale. This Australian drama intercuts between a Cambodian vacation gone awry and its aftermath in Sydney. Two couples go on holiday together, but only three parties come back. One is pregnant Alice (Felicity Price, the co-writer with Kieran Darcy-Smith, her director and husband). The other is her husband Dave (Joel Edgerton from Warrior). The third is Alice’s sexy younger sister Steph (Teresa Palmer). Back home, far from the beachside raves and Ecstasy pills, Dave’s acting furtive, holding secret colloquies with Steph, which naturally makes Alice suspicious. What are they hiding from her?
The Cambodian street and beach scenes have a pungent realism as the four giddy Aussies let down their hair and party. Only Steph’s new boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr) is somewhat guarded; he’s in “business,” he says obliquely, with plenty of cash to pick up every bar tab. Back home, things become a little more soap-operatic: sexual misdeeds are confessed, Alice and Dave’s happy home (with two small kids) is torn asunder, and he’s menaced by mysterious Vietnamese gangsters. Wish You Were Here is well-played and suspenseful, but you come away wishing for deeper transgressions and guilt. Told in a straightforward linear fashion, the story would surprise no one. Darcy-Smith does a good job of disguising that fact, but the deception—like any vacation in paradise—always has to end.