As I reviewed “Wander” last week, I felt it was my civic duty to review “Wander Darkly” (available on VOD beginning on Fri. Dec. 11) as well. You know, to see both sides of the spectrum.
Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) are a young couple who are on the cusp of being on the outs despite having had a baby daughter six months earlier. They go to a party one fateful evening attended by Adrienne’s colleague Liam (Tory Kittles), whom she has a flirtatious relationship with. Adrienne’s also jealous of Matteo’s connection to Shea (Aimee Carrero), a woman he worked with on a construction project. While returning home Adrienne and Matteo get into an argument, which distracts him from driving as an oncoming car swerves into their lane and crashes head-on into their vehicle. The accident is devastating.
The remainder of the movie poses all sorts of questions. Are one or both of them dead? Did their daughter die? Was she in the car at all? Adrienne and Matteo relive key moments of their relationship hoping to gain a greater perspective on one another and what exactly their current circumstances are. The proceedings feel like a hodgepodge of “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” but not as horrific as the former nor as romantic as the latter.
This is clearly a very personal project for writer/director Tara Miele, who herself was in a traumatic car accident a few years back – one which she and her husband thankfully survived. There’s a lot to admire and recommend in “Wander Darkly.” Luna and especially Miller give really solid performances. They also share a surprisingly frank, graphic and funny sex scene set to The War on Drugs’ “Suffering” (great band; great song). Kudos to these two big names for having the courage to shoot this sequence as it lends the picture a sense intimacy and honesty it might otherwise lack. I also enjoyed having character actress Beth Grant on hand as Adrienne’s mother. Whether she’s being forced under the wheels of a bus as she was in “Speed,” being told to insert an index card into her anus à la “Donnie Darko” or nagging Luna’s character as she does here, this lady’s always watchable and memorable. Lastly, the editing employed to transition the audience from one scenario to another is especially effective – props to editors Tamara Meem and Alex O’Flinn (he previously edited Chloé Zhao’s “The Rider”) for their masterful work.
Now for the bad: Kittles is an awesome actor who’s essentially wasted here. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen this cat’s excellent work in last year’s “Dragged Across Concrete” and you’re not squeamish you really should.) “Saturday Night Live” veteran Vanessa Bayer and commercial actor Dan Gill (he’s a cute dude with curly hair and a mustache) play Adrienne and Matteo’s friends Maggie and Dane. Neither one of them are bad in their roles and may very well have been cast as comedic relief in what’s otherwise a serious work, but their presence is somewhat distracting. I kept waiting for the picture to transform into a sketch or a State Farm ad whenever they appeared. Lastly, Miele has a history of directing Lifetime movies (2014’s “Starving in Suburbia” and 2015’s “Lost Boy”) and some of that cheesy energy seeps into what’s otherwise an engaging and emotional dramatic thriller.