Review by Sean Boelman
Tara Miele’s romantic fantasy flick Wander Darkly has an intriguing premise and a phenomenal cast, but her vision lacks the cohesiveness and coherence to connect. Admirably inspired but not making a whole lot of sense due to an overly convoluted structure, this feels like a giant missed opportunity.
The film follows a couple of new parents who, following a traumatic accident, recount their relationship and relive their love. In what feels like a more pretentious and less charming version of Ghost, Miele obviously thinks she is delivering something insightful and profound when it’s actually just super vague.
Thankfully, the episodic nature of the narrative creates a false sense of movement and rhythm. But had these moments been presented in chronological order, they would have made up a conventional and frankly boring romantic drama. Some of the moments work well on an individual level, but don’t add up in the long run.
There’s something to be said here about the anxiety of being a new parent, but those intriguing themes are buried beneath layers of over-sentimental romance. And while the loss of a loved one is undeniably a heartbreaking experience that makes it an easy target for sappy movies like this, it is in stark contrast to the otherwise creative setup.
Another one of the movie’s major shortcomings is that the character development is extremely lackluster. The point of the film is that there are highs and lows in any relationship, but those less than savory moments make it difficult to support this relationship, even if the love between them is obvious.
The two lead actors in the movie are both very good, but they can only do so much with weak material, and so at times, their performances can feel forced at times. This is particularly the case with Diego Luna, who has the less meaty of the two roles. Sienna Miller has more than a few moments in which she shows the potential of what the film could have been.
Visually, Miele clearly has a lot of talent, but this particular movie is too inconsistent to land. There are portions of the film that are meant to be dark and gritty and others that are surreal and beautiful, and Miele does not succeed in creating this dichotomy. Instead, it feels like two extremes that the movie cuts back and forth between, and it’s disorienting.
Wander Darkly should have been a compelling and challenging fantasy drama, but it turns out to be a mostly joyless romance that squanders the creativity of its cast and crew. Miele’s voice comes through, and it’s an exciting one, but this was not the film to showcase it.
Wander Darkly screened at the 2020 AFI FEST which ran October 15-22.
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