Wish You Were Here (DVD Review)

As four friends indulge in a carefree Cambodian holiday, their sun-soaked retreat quickly takes a horrific turn when one of them disappears. Does one of the remaining friends hold the answer to the fate of their lost companion?  Screen veteran Kieran Darcy-Smith (Animal Kingdom) makes his feature directorial debut with this ambitious non-linear drama centering on a group of Australian friends whose lives are irreparably changed after one of them goes missing during a spontaneous vacation in Cambodia.  Alice (Felicity Price) and Dave (Joel Edgerton) are about to become new parents when they agree to join Alice’s little sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her new beau Jeremy (Anthony Starr) on a sun-soaked trip to Cambodia.  Their tropical retreat quickly turns bad, however, when Jeremy vanishes without a trace. As the investigation into Jeremy’s disappearance begins to reveal the nefarious motivations behind their trip, the remaining three struggle to carry on with their lives in Sydney amidst the threat that even more damning details will emerge.


Film  (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Kieran Darcy-Smith makes his feature film directorial debut with Wish You Were Here.  Darcy directs his real life wife Felicity Price (Home and Away, West) with whom he co-wrote the screenplay.  The film was the Sundance Film Festival Official Selection and won the Australian Film Institute’s Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor awards.

Felicity Price plays Alice, a mother of two who is expecting her third child.  Life is good for her and husband Dave (Joel Edgerton, The Great Gatsby, Zero Dark Thirty, Warrior).  Alice’s little sister Steph (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) convinces the couple to accompany her and her new boyfriend Jeremy (Anthony Starr, The World’s Fastest Indian, Without a Paddle) on a Cambodian vacation.

The vacation is full of beautiful sights, drinking and dancing but only three of the four vacationers return home to Australia. Jeremy is missing and the others are grieving his loss.  Steph is hopeful that Jeremy will soon return.  As the police get involved, the friends are forced to admit that none of them knew him very well.  Jeremy is a successful business man but everything they know about him is based on information he gave.  Tragedy can bring people together and it can tear them apart.  In Wish You Were Here, it goes both ways as the details of the trip emerge and it becomes clear that at least one character knows more about the events than they have let on.

Much of the film is set back in Australia, after the vacation has ended.  The audience is very much in the dark about what kind of man Jeremy is and what adventures took place.  Brief glimpses into the Cambodian vacation gradually unfold into a complete picture of events past.  Although Jeremy is missing, the story is truly focused on Alice, Dave and Steph and how they deal with stress, loss and lies.

I’m always on the lookout for a film I’ve never heard of that could turn out to be a hidden gem.  Wish You Were Here did not cross my radar during its theatrical release and although the starts aren’t huge, I have heard of them.  Wish You Were Here is dramatic and well written.  It’s a great first effort from Kieran Darcy-Smith and Felicity Price.  It’s obviously low budget, but that’s not necessarily a negative.  While it was a good drama it wasn’t as suspenseful of a thriller as I had hoped.  The casting was spot on and all the actors inhabited their roles well.  I wish the character Jeremy had been a little better developed so the audience understood what kind of man he was.  Not knowing what all his business ventures were and what his relationship with Steph was like made it hard to tell if he was the type of guy that would likely fall victim to foul play.  The film gave a lot of information about Alice and Dave and I wish I had known more about Steph and Jeremy.


Video  (3 out of 5 stars)

Wish You Were Here is presented on DVD with a 16×9 ratio (2.35:1).  While the drama occurred in Cambodia, the majority of the film takes place in Australia.  Most of the scenes are drab with depressed colors, making the viewer feel as though a happy ending is not on the horizon.  The film is unfortunately not available on Blu-ray but none of the usual DVD vs. Blu-ray complaints hampered my enjoyment of the film.


Audio  (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Wish You Were Here’s 5.1 Dolby Digital audio presentation is primarily dialogue driven.  I tend to watch movies after my son is sleeping and found myself adjusting the volume a lot as I couldn’t always understand the dialogue and Australian accents. The film didn’t end up having many loud gun fire or other big sound effects but during the first viewing I kept my finger on the volume button waiting for bad things to happen on screen.  Rain and other environmental sounds come across well but the audio is definitely not Blu-ray quality.


Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

There are only two extras but the second particularly is of significant length and detail. I enjoyed the information about finding their locations and casting in Cambodia.

  • Making of Featurette – Behind the scenes “making of” featurette includes details from the filmmaker side about getting a first film made as well as the point of view of the actors cast in the film. 
  • Cast and Crew Interviews – Interviews include Director Kieran Darcy-Smith, Writer/Actor Felicity Price and Actors Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer and Anthony Starr. 


Summary  (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Wish You Were Here has a lot of drama, and certainly a lot of tension.  That doesn’t translate into the thriller I’d hoped for. I admit to wanting a more on the edge of your seat film.  Although it’s not really the thriller I was hoping for, it’s a very moody film both in tone and visual appearance.  Kieran Darcy-Smith and his wife Felicity Price make a good team and I will certainly check IMDB to see what’s up next for the pair.  The features were interesting, especially the information about their casting of the film and not asking their friend Joel Edgerton to star in it (thinking he was too big for the role, while he wondered why he wasn’t even being considered for it).  I am a repeat watcher like no one I know and this doesn’t have the excitement to keep me watching time and time again.  However, it is a solid drama and should at least appeal to independent film fans.

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