review: wander darkly
By Nadia Dalimonte
Sienna Miller and Diego Luna in Wander Darkly (2020)
Wander Darkly is a disorienting rollercoaster of emotions that slips through time to explore interpretations of the truth in a couple’s relationship. Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) are getting through their first year as new parents. They have a baby girl, a new home, and their lives together seem full of possibility. But are they truly happy as a couple? During a rare date night, Adrienne reflects on her future in the passenger seat. They both deserve to be happy, she insists to Matteo. The two share a tense conversation full of nuances about stability, as Adrienne questions the point of them being together. Amidst the frustrations about their relationship, they are suddenly thrown into the aftermath of a traumatic event.
Adrienne wakes up from an accident in a jarring daze, watching in horror as her supposed death flashes before her eyes. Matteo talks her down a ledge and explains that she’s been in a puzzling trance, but she seems to think that she now exists in the afterlife. The film introduces an intriguing premise, and while there is an over-reliance on this nightmarish concept, the story finds some footing as an exploration of lost love. Writer-director Tara Miele is in search of truths, not just about what’s happening to the protagonist but also about why Adrienne and Matteo fell apart as a couple. At the fragmented heart of Wander Darkly is a love story. The film revisits the couple’s relationship from its shy and intimate blossoming to its emotional development. Echoing vibes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adrienne and Matteo retrace their memories and jump through time in search of what they lost. What remains a mystery, until the end, is which parts of the story are reality and which emerge out of imagination.
At a certain point comes the predictability of where the story is going, and the film loses some of its momentum going into the final act. But there is still plenty of intrigue to be found, particularly in Adrienne’s journey of regaining balance within herself. The film is told from her frame of mind, and her vulnerable adaptation to a completely new way of life is moving to watch. Sienna Miller is wonderful in this role; like a ghost finding purpose, she wanders in search of what happened to her and revisits the past to uncover a level of truthfulness she couldn't see at the time. Her performance is a beautiful portrayal of fragility and frightening uncertainty. Joined by a very charming performance by Diego Luna, the two elevate the material and create a believable portrait of a crumbling relationship that gives weight to the ending.
Wander Darkly takes a disorienting approach to a relationship and uses strong technicalities to follow a fragmented mind. The camera movements create some interesting illusions to portray the ups and downs of Adrienne and Matteo’s life together. The editing compliments the story quite well, avoiding a mess of confusion. What resonates most about Tara Miele’s feature is how personal and aspiring her perspective feels. She explores the interpretation of truth in a challenging way, puts an ambitious spin on a love story, and experiments with a concept that doesn’t always work in action but comes from a place of authenticity.
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