Wander Darkly Review | AFI Fest 2020

Wander Darkly Review | AFI Fest 2020

Read Time:2 Minutes, 52 Seconds

Sienna Miller and Diego Luna spend purgatory working out their relationship issues in Tara Miele’s incredible drama about the afterlife.

Sienna Miller and Diego Luna star as Adrienne and Matteo, a couple who gets into an accident on their way to a date night and subsequently sends the two on a journey to rediscover what made the relationship special in the first place so that the two can finally focus on their future. 

In these roles, Miller and Luna play off the fact that this is a couple who aren’t all-in on the relationship. This level of non-committal love allows the two to avoid the melodramatic shlock that movies like these usually aim for and instead aim for subtle emotion. Adrienne assumes the worst, not caring whether the two break-up or worse. Luna injects all of his charms into Matteo, whether by being “the fun guy” at parties or by sheer willpower. Paired together, the two continually playfully mock each other throughout the trip through memory lane. Unfortunately, the two’s chemistry often comes off as much more comedic than I think is intended, often pushing off the matters at hand to make a quick joke at the expense of the story.

Image: Lionsgate

Writer-director Tara Miele’s effort to keep the audience guessing where the story is going is probably the smartest move she makes. If the story’s goal is to look back on a relationship, why is the audience always being shifted on the crucial details? That’s because Tara Miele is aiming to take the formula of It’s A Wonderful Life and adapt it in a way that makes sense to a modern audience. One sequence might start at a party, then travel to a low moment of their relationship, back to the present, and then go into the future.

Miele’s script is quite smart with the breadcrumbs it leaves for the viewer and the small quips throughout, like how Adrienne telling Matteo that zombies are her people. Likewise, they disagree on the facts of what actually happened, even something as small as whether or not Matteo ran away or ran for a fire extinguisher. Through their pain, the two have essentially allowed the past to be erased.

Carolina Costa’s cinematography helps create a sense of disorientation using handheld camerawork and drone shots of the city. The amount of work that must have gone into the film to subtly portray the passage of time must have been Herculean. Sometimes, you’ll blink, and time has passed, with the only clue being that new clothes are being worn or the length of their hair. By focusing on the costume changes, audiences have somewhat of a tether to the real world. Accompanying the film’s excellent visual language is Alex Weston’s piano score that is subdued for most of the film but makes itself known often enough that I wouldn’t mind listening to it while doing dishes.

Even though Wander Darkly ultimately asks you to sit with the question of reconciliation, the film is better when the pair act like a couple and acknowledge their flaws and what they would’ve done differently.

Wander Darkly will be available to watch in select theaters, digital, and on-demand on December 11th.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thanks to Thomas Stoneham-Judge from Movies For Reel for supporting Austin B Media!

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