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Sundance 2012. Kieran Darcy-Smith’s “Wish You Were Here”

While a few are impressed, most find the payoff at the end to be a bit of a letdown.
The DailyWish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here, which launched the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance on Thursday, "opens with Joel Edgerton and wife Felicity Price (who also co-wrote the screenplay [with real-life husband Kieran Darcy-Smith, whose debut feature this is — you following?]) lying on an idyllic Cambodian beach, reveling in sun-baked decadence," writes Nathan Rabin at the AV Club. "Back in Australia they're parents and responsible adults, but in Cambodia they leave their responsibilities behind for a night of Ecstasy-stoked decadence that goes terribly awry and leaves one member of their party — a businessman Price's frisky sister Teresa Palmer was seeing — missing and Edgerton haunted by the fuzzy events of that night…. After an hour and a half of escalation, the ending proves deflating but that doesn't entirely invalidate the tight, focused, and intense filmmaking that preceded it."

Rabin gives the film a B- but his fellow AV Clubber Noel Murray downgrades it to a C+: "It's always tricky when a film openly withholds important information from the audience. With all the time the filmmakers are asking us to invest in their story, the answers to the big questions had better be worth it; and there better be a compelling reason why we had to wait so long." Wish You Were Here "has one gripping sequence that almost justifies its overall coyness," but overall, "this is one of those puzzle movies that's frustrating in pieces, and underwhelming once it's all fit together."

At Movieline, Jen Yamato notes that "just two years ago the Aussie import Animal Kingdom premiered at Sundance, leading the charge for a new wave of Australian cinema. Wish You Were Here unites Animal Kingdom actors Darcy-Smith and Edgerton, whose star has risen considerably in the past few years, under the Blue-Tongue Films banner they founded with Edgerton's brother Nash. But while there's a lot to like in Here, it doesn't live up to David Michôd's explosive 2010 feature debut."

For the Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney, "Wish You Were Here at times recalls another Australian film, Ray Lawrence's superb 2001 psychodrama Lantana…. This kind of character-driven suspense can be challenging to sustain, but Darcy-Smith achieves that with the assurance of a far more experienced filmmaker."

It's The Hangover Part II-meets-The Deep End, suggests Steven Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times. For Tim Grierson (Screen), "the depths being explored aren't nearly as incisive or startling as its makers think." At the Playlist, Todd Gilchrist gives it a C.

Update, 1/24: John Lichman talks with Edgerton and Palmer for the Playlist.

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