The Australian film industry has always been able to deliver great movies with enduring appeal and 2012’s Wish You Were Here starring Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer and Felicity Price is another powerful drama.
The film opens with four Australian’s (Edgerton, Price, Palmer and Anthony Starr) holidaying in Cambodia. They’re having a great time, but a jump cut shows one of them (Starr) never made it home. Director Kieran Darcy-Smith’s film follows the aftermath of the trip (along with flashbacks), showing the effect of what happened on the three that made it back. At the centre is Edgerton’s Dave, who appears to know more about what occurred than he is letting on.
Wish You Were Here is an odd beast of family drama and mystery. The two genres shouldn’t really work together, but Darcy-Smith’s film feels real. The characters are fully drawn (Felicity Price wrote the script with Darcy-Smith) and nothing ever feels contrived (well, not much). They’re real people caught-up in something they can’t comprehend.
One of the things which makes Wish You Were Here work is the cast. Everyone delivers a strong performance. They keep things natural, giving performances which hit the right emotional beats. Just like in real-life, there’s no villain here – they are all victims of circumstance. Edgerton once again shows he can deliver s strong every-man performance, with the right amount of fear and anger bubbling under the surface. You can see why Hollywood has come calling, but lets hope that (for the most part) he turns his back on soulless blockbusters. He’s better than that.
Dramas can sometimes be a little flat visually, but Wish You Were Here’s cinematography (by Jules O’Loughlin) has a luscious glow. The Cambodian and New South Wales locations are visually arresting and there’s an earthy quality on display that gives the film a unique look (especially for an Australian film).
Wish You Were Here is a fine drama, with a strong emotional undercurrent. The acting is first class, the writing is strong and the cinematography is first rate. Kieran Darcy-Smith’s film has a gripping dramatic narrative but also a compelling underlying mystery. This two-pronged approach helps the film work on different levels, meaning that it has the potential to work for different audiences (although those expecting major fireworks will be disappointed). Wish Yo Were Here again shows that Australian cinema is still achingly relevant and well worth your time.