Tara Miele’s Wander Darkly

To properly absorb the fascinating, highly emotional, metaphysically challenging piece of introspection that is Tara Miele’s Wander Darkly you’ll have to literally turn off the part of your brain that processes films in a linear, logical and systematic fashion. That’s not to say it’s some super abstract art installation on celluloid like some filmmakers traffic in, this is a discernible story simply refracted through a prism of unconsciousness, largely taking place in a realm different from ours, and the way that one observes it should be adjusted accordingly. I hate to use comparison all the time but it does help a bit in understanding the journey you’re about to embark on so picture something like Michel Gondry by way of Terence Malick and you’ll have some notion but, as always, this is a singular piece all its own and one of the most impressive, affecting films I’ve seen all year, starting with a performance from Sienna Miller that redefines the idea of acting for camera itself. Her and Diego Luna play a thirty something couple who have just had a newborn baby and are looking forward to their lives ahead.. until a brutal car accident changes everything all in one moment. Moment is the key word for how the film progresses after this even because the only way I can describe the narrative flow employed here is a series of ‘moments’ untethered from any sort of structure or beats. Most of the film takes place in a sort of purgatorial realm between worlds where we wonder if she’s dead, or he’s dead, maybe both of them are or perhaps they’re just stuck in the gauzy limbo between life and death. In any case they find themselves thrown into an elemental algorithm of shifting memories, hazy recollections and free flowing subconscious experience, revisiting keystone moments along the path of their relationship involving their issues as a couple, the baby coming into the world, her fight against mental illness, their stormy relationship with her parents (Beth Grant and Brett Rice, both superb) and a whole nebulous cluster of defining events in their lives distilled into moments, here one second and gone the next. It’s a disorienting, waking-dream experiment and I’ve never ever seen a story told quite like this on film, I promise you what they’ve done here is utterly unique and singular. There are transitions between scene to scene that happen with the kind of surreal fluidity where I didn’t even notice there *was* a transition until halfway through the next moment because it just felt so… elemental. Sienna Miller gives an award worthy performance here and then some, she bares all in an emotionally naked, psychologically raw and disarmingly vulnerable piece of performance that I’m still thinking about days later. Director Miele uses aforementioned transitions, an angelic score by Alex Weston and intuitively placed editing to make this something simultaneously out of this world yet also so human, so relatable and so down to earth despite being lost in the clouds of non-traditional storytelling and profound ambitions. One of the best films of the year.

-Nate Hill

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