Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Wish You Were Here

How far would you go to keep a secret from your family, the authorities and your whole country if means keeping them safe, even if it also means causing a prolonged international incident? Wish You Were Here is a strikingly well acted and edited Australian dramatic thriller that illustrates how a backpacking vacation can be a once in a lifetime dream experience or spiral out of control into the darkest nightmare. As four people from Sydney venture on a trip to Cambodia together, we observe only three of them return, and the devastating psychological and emotional aftermath the disappearance causes once they get home to Australia with no answers as to what happened. Joel Egerton and Felicity Price are the middle aged couple who have kids back in Sydney, and joining them is her younger sister (Teresa Palmer) and her hotshot businessman boyfriend (Antony ‘Homelander’ Starr) who is the one that eventually goes missing. The opening of the film is a dazzling, uplifting kaleidoscopic montage of beautiful sightseeing, beaches, smiling locals, delicious street food and moonlit beach parties, and as the film progresses we see a threatening veil of unfamiliarity and dread descend over the story as we flash back, forward and in between the trip to beforehand and after in Sydney until we get a real sense of being ‘out of time’ alongside these characters and their prolonged confusion and pain. One of these four knows what happened, why it happened and where the missing boyfriend is, and the intelligent, rewarding narrative shows us four human beings dealing with betrayal, lack of closure, fragile relationships and the ensuing chaos that comes from a vacation in a foreign land gone terribly wrong. Egerton is strikingly raw and vulnerable here in maybe the best performance I’ve seen him in as a man stuck in an unthinkable situation. Price and Palmer are equally affecting and each of the three keystone performances from these leads are simply staggering. The narrative shows us glimpses of the central mystery before doubling back and preparing us all over again with additional flashback information we didn’t have before and now sheds more light on what we’ve seen and then are about to see moving forward into the haunting final act, it’s a shifting puzzle-box experience that drew me right in. I haven’t really heard this film talked about much and didn’t even know it existed until I came across it on Amazon Prime, but I would highly recommend it for fans of mature, emotionally intelligent interpersonal drama with thriller sensibilities and a story that keeps you guessing but also, more importantly, has you feeling deeply for its characters. Brilliant stuff.

-Nate Hill