Many things have changed in the 5 years since I last visited the Sundance Film Festival in Park City UT.  The crowd has changed, the hot button issues are different, and there seems to be less of an emphasis on what awesome celebrity will be present during the 10 day event.  However the one thing that has remained the same to this day, is the festival’s insatiable need to bombard its audience members with emotionally charged films.  And while the rest of the world was watching the opening night premiere of Queen of Versailles, I instead encountered such a film with Wish You Were Here.

If you were to judge this movie just by its first few frames, you would most likely end up pegging the film as some sort of feel good Dramedy.  The audience is shown gorgeous shots of blue skies over a sandy paradise.  Our main characters are of course down to their skivvies (as it is a beach) and look as beautiful as ever amidst the backdrop of this supposed paradise.  However much like the first 20 minutes of Eli Roth’s Hostel, things are not exactly as they appear.

Flash forward a few weeks later and we learn that this vacation in Cambodia wasn’t anything like they had envisioned.  One of the members of the group has gone missing, and as the plot slowly unravels, we begin to learn just how terrifying this little vacation had become.  Think of it as a mashup of the Hostel and The Hangover, except the events take place in Cambodia and, well, it’s not a comedy.

Wish You Were Here may not necessarily be what one would consider a “horror” film, but there is a certain level of plausibility in the events that unfold, and in a way, this can be more frightening than anything a Monster Movie can conjure up.  It forces you to wonder about what you would do in such a situation.  What if one of your friends went missing while you were parading around a 3rd world country?  What kind of evil lurks below the surface of all these top tourist destinations?  All of these and more are explored within this film’s 90 minute run time, and the answers are sometimes more uncomfortable than the questions themselves.

One of my favorite aspects of the film was just the overall quality of acting. Coming in, I was only vaguely familiar with some of these actors’ previous work, however now that it’s over, I feel a need to delve deeper into each of their catalogs.  Perhaps the best performance of the film came from Joel Edgerton, whose portrayal of a man who must come to grips with his part in this tragedy, is one that is both riveting and inexplicably heartbreaking.  As the film’s plot unwinds and Edgerton’s secrets are revealed, we see his character slowly become completely unwound, and it’s a transformation that is both well executed and fun to watch.

Wish You Were Here marks Director Kieran Darcy-Smith’s directorial debut, and as such, it shows quite a bit of promise.  Darcy-Smith appears to be keyed in to the actor’s process and just the pure quality of execution on this project makes me look forward to this man’s undoubtedly bright future.  Darcy-Smith is now working on his second feature Memorial Day, with producer Angie Fielder, and executive producer Ted Hope (21 Grams, Happiness).



Check out the film’s trailer below,

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