Well this was unexpected.
Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) are new parents on their first night out post baby, half giddy, half drunk on the mere thought of that first drink, half on edge because things have been tense, half fighting before they even reach the party. Mathematically that’s too (two) many halves, so let’s just say it’s not the fun and fancy free night out they’d envisioned, and that’s before they get in that brutal car wreck that half kills them both.
I’m only half being cheeky. The thing is, Adrienne wakes up dead, or believes herself to be dead, despite assurances from others that she isn’t, which leaves the couple in a rather, erm, surreal situation. Together they revisit the highlights and lowlights of their troubled relationship, trying to piece together a version of their life where it all makes sense, is all worth while. Whether your soul is actually in limbo or you’re simply experiencing a psychotic break due to trauma, taking such a stark account of one’s life is always a harrowing and naked experience. Interestingly, we get to see the major milestones of their relationship from both sides. There is no impartial witness in a relationship, no official accounting of who is right and who is wrong. But in tallying up their love and their losses, the grief and the guilt, the score actually seems besides the point.
I often have a low tolerance for movies (and stories generally) that go out of their way to be obtuse but this one managed to keep my interest, and harder still, my positive regard. Wander Darkly is effective and enticing, drawing us in to a mystery but always keeping enough momentum that we’re never bogged down in the not-knowing. The film is introspective, ruminative, poetic, experimental. Its sliding timelines isn’t always easy to keep track of, but magnetic performances from Miller and Luna smooth the ugly transitions. Miller mines for emotional gold and finds lots of gems along the way. Luna, meanwhile, runs the whole spectrum from good guy to bad and back again.
A romance crossed with a supernatural thriller, Wander Darkly is unpredictable and uneven, but writer-director Tara Miele has something to add about the complexity of relationships, and even this startling story line has plenty to relate to.