LFF 2012: WISH YOU WERE HERE Movie Review
The directorial debut from Animal Kingdom actor Kieran Darcy-Smith, Wish You Were Here tells the story of four Australian holidaymakers who embark on a week long trip to Cambodia. Steph McKinney (Teresa Palmer) has been invited on the vacation by her new boyfriend Jeremy King (Antony Starr) and asks her sister and brother-in-law, Alice and Dave (Felicity Price and Joel Edgerton), to accompany them knowing that they need a break from their hectic family life. What was meant to be a carefree trip, however, ends in tragedy when Jeremy mysteriously disappears and the McKinney family are sent back to their native Australia waiting for the Cambodian government to deliver any news.
Through a fractured structure that will inevitably draw comparison to last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, the film frequently cuts back and forth between the present day and the events of their holiday. In doing so, we soon learn that Jeremy’s disappearance may not be as mysterious to these characters as we initially thought. Each possesses a dark secret from their Cambodian vacation that they are attempting to repress from both themselves and from each other, and it may provide the answer to his vanishing.
Wish You Were Here slowly reveals their secrets over the course of its duration, dropping hints at almost every turn to keep you guessing what really occurred in Cambodia. But what makes the film so compelling is not just discovering the protagonists’ enigmas, it’s also witnessing the effects these secrets have of their lives.
As their indiscretions begin to surface, the previously intimate relationships between Dave, Alice and Steph begin to crumble under the weight of both their tortured consciences and the shocking revelations they encounter. The performances from Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer and especially Felicity Price, capture these moments with a raw emotional intensity. All three demonstrate some of the finest acting of 2012 thus far.
Wish You Were Here, therefore, works excellently as both a gripping mystery and emotive character study, making Kieran Darcy-Smith’s debut another shining example of Australian cinema. It’s a simple premise but through intelligent direction and three powerhouse performances he transforms it into a compelling and intriguing film about the weight of a guilty conscience.