Review: 'Wander Darkly' gets stranded in sea of confusing exposition
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Tara Miele’s “Wander Darkly” is an ambitious piece of filmmaking that never connects emotionally. It’s a confusing narrative paradox trying to be a hybrid of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'' meets “Ghost” and though “Wander Darkly” benefits from the luster of Sienna Miller and Diego Luna, even they struggle to explain what’s going on.
Instead, “Wander Darkly” manifests as a high-concept drama wrapped in a vague, loosely defined package that has style, but never makes sense of the twisty, time-traveling loopholes. Miller plays Adrienne and Luna is Mateo and the film starts after the birth of their first child. Despite Adrienne and Mateo’s relationship already being on the rocks, the newborn could be seen as a fresh start (they aren’t married) but it doesn’t negate how out of sync the two have become over the years. No baby could change that, except their lives change forever after a sudden, horrific car accident.
Much of what happens next becomes a blurred line between reality and fiction. Adrienna wakes up in the aftermath of the wreckage, where a slew of metaphysical events point to the grander picture of “Wander Darkly.” Is she dead? Or is this some hallucinatory exercise? It’s a bit of both as the literal embodiment of death lurks in the shadow and forces Adrienne and Luna to physically revisit past memories (in real time) to envision and explain (to themselves) what derailed their companionship. This is a nifty framing device Niele utilizes to flesh out Adrienna and Mateo’s story, but as the timelines cut back and forth between the past, present, and future, it becomes a chore keeping up.
If not for the warmth Miller and Luna project, “Wander Darkly” would combust. Miele is dabbling with some great ideas, but she quickly moves to the next thought before completing the previous one. And the longer events drag out, the stranger and weirder they become. A strong centralized theme about mothers protecting their children occasionally has a soothing, rewarding payoff that can hit like a gut punch, including an emotionally charged finale which almost gets the apex it yearned for. But at the end of the day, the audience is asked to carry the burden of this complex narrative and it’s a hefty load that takes some mighty swings, only to gracefully tumble back to reality. In other words, tread lightly.
WANDER DARKLY debuts on VOD/Digital Friday, December 11th.