We’ve seen this before: a dreamy, warm tonal sequence of a new born baby. The standard adorable close ups and a couple staring, smiling at each other – as if to say, wow, look what we’ve made… The upbeat notes married perfectly with new life seems all too idyllic to be true (almost like Sienna Miller’s hair that doesn’t seem to be out of place at all). The sun is shining as the camera pans over green spaces and we are quickly slapped in the face by this couple’s new parents/no time for themselves dynamic.
While Matteo (Diego Luna) decides to start on some woodwork rather than get spruced up for date night, Adrienne(Sienna Miller) prays on all their relationship faults. Lengthy and fruitless quarrels emerge rather than a night escaping adult responsibilities, leaving a sour taste lingering opposed to the sickeningly sweet opening this couple had. Well, date night’s much cheaper than therapy, right? A momentary diversion of attention, one look too many at Adrienne and a sudden collision sends this narrative truly spinning out of reality and linear time as we know it.
Hallucinations, fantasies, trances – whatever you want to call these psychedelic scenes, they utterly consume the screen rendering the way forward a somewhat chaotic puzzle, which we want to solve. Jealously, doubt, the constant want to be needed, loved and self-sabotage when things get good – these are the film’s themes as well as its framework. Just as we get into the nitty gritty, things get ripped away from under our feet and just as our main character is we are whisked to another location, another memory, and another cliché. The formula becomes an ‘on the nose’ tactic for those grand, life mysteries – where do we go after death, what happens to our souls, so on and so forth. Half way through you can’t help but think to yourself you have heard this before. We know there is a twist coming and some may guess it early – completely diluting the film’s emotionally captivating representation of just how delicate relationships truly are. Miller and Luna bring emotion and vigour in every sense to this fragile, trauma-driven marriage making us want to stay, to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit.
The beautiful and seamless merging of locations take us to a place reminiscent of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless of the Mind’. The distortions of reality, the forever changing environments similarly evoke how differently our memory serves us. Connections are effortlessly made with ‘The Affair’, as Adrienne plummets into the depths of her mind, only to be told by Matteo, no, he said ‘I love you first’, or was it her? The industry’s exploration of challenging relationships has always been there, this isn’t new. Representations such as those in ‘Marriage Story’ and the recent ‘Malcolm & Marie’ chew up and spit out the constant, repetitive, monotonous beat that all relationship chug away beneath the frills of what society, what cinema perceives it as.
Wander Darkly, is captivating, confusing and clever all at once. This is one to be digested slowly; take in the scenery, take in the poetic dialogue and give in to the journey it offers.