Kieran Darcy Smith‘s Sundance entry Wish You Were Here is not only the best Australian film that I’ve ever seen but it’s also one of the most compelling, interesting and original movies that has hit cinemas in years. What makes this film so special is in its every detail; the story, the script, the fantastic performances, the direction etc. Wish You Were Here is simply a culmination of exceptional acting talent and a powerful story with heart, truth and purpose.
Wish You Were Here marks the feature-length directorial debut from Kieran Darcy-Smith, who co-wrote this unique story with his wife Felicity Price, who stars in the film alongside Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer and Anthony Starr. The story follows two Australian couples, Dan and Alice played by Edgerton and Price, and Alice’s sister Steph and her new boyfriend Jeremy, played by Palmer and Starr, who travel to Cambodia. Though they depart with four in their group, only three of them return. Once they arrive back home, the secrets of their holiday and the mystery surrounding their missing friend Jeremy begin to unravel.
One of the key reasons why Wish You Were Here is so wonderful is its structure. The film uses frequent flashbacks to take us back to the Cambodian holiday. It does so as the characters are living with the aftermath of it all. As the audience, this allows us to uncover the mystery of what happened on the night that Jeremy went missing. We do so while watching the characters as they begin to re-live it themselves. It’s a very engaging way to tell the story and it works well.
The superb dialogue also adds to this incredibly real and emotive story. Seeming mercilessly real, the film’s purity and rawness, especially in dialogue, allows you to feel a complete connection to these characters and their harrowing situation. Then there’s Darcy-Smith’s direction, which is simply amazing. To think that this is director’s first film is unbelievable. His ability to capture the audience’s attention from start to finish in a perfectly crafted film is astonishing.
As for the acting, Edgerton’s portrayal of Dan, a man at a cross-road in his life, is very organic and real. It’s completely moving and Edgerton never fails to hold your attention. Also fantastic in the film is Felicity Price whose character Alice undergoes the biggest evolution of character throughout the film. Her heartfelt performance as a strong woman trying to hold her young family together in a time of emotional crisis is absolutely riveting.
Rising star Teresa Palmer also does some excellent work here with her raw and gritty portrayal of a young woman who has no one or nowhere to turn to. Finally, there’s Anthony Starr. Though his role is the smallest of the four leads, his performance as the charismatic Jeremy brings another element of realism to the film.
To find a film these days that isn’t a remake, reboot, sequel, prequel or based off some kind of source material is starting to becoming a rare thing. It’s even more rare when such a film turns out to be fantastic.
Wish You Were Here is one of those films and it is the perfect example of why original screenplays aren’t dead. It provides a unique and elegant structure to support an enthralling story with outstanding purpose and beautiful reality. From start to finish you become completely absorbed in this story and every aspect of the production culminates to create a fantastic film that will leave you rattled, captivated and moved.
Kieran Darcy-Smith's Wish You Were Here is a powerful, organic and captivating original story with a unique structure and raw emotional performances.