By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
In less than a week, I’m embarking on an ambitious trip throughout Southeast Asia, India, and China. Depending on when this posts, I may be in the middle of it when you’re reading. So, umm… maybe watching a movie about a tourist who goes missing in Cambodia under creepy and mysterious circumstances wasn’t the best call.
It’s like researching restaurant hygiene right before going to a bangin’ McD’s B’day party.
This event sets off the plot, but it’s not all The Beach-esque high jinks. Rather, it focuses on the aftermath, when the missing man’s girlfriend (Teresa Palmer, from Warm Bodies), and her sister (Felicity Price, from… Farscape, I guess?) and her husband (Joel Edgerton, from The Great Gatsby) return to Australia and try to put their lives back together. However, secrets they’re hiding from their dream vacation threaten to do the opposite and tear them apart.
This film is a slow-burner, and writer/director (and more famously, actor) Kieran Darcy-Smith shows a very nuanced approach and penchant for creating utterly realistic characters and situations. The key to enjoying this movie is realizing that despite that lurid hook, it’s first and foremost a relationship drama, about how secrets strain and ultimately shred a relationship. The fights between Edgerton and Price aren’t full of cutting wit and melodramatic bombast, but rather the silent treatment, a lack of communication that feels heartbreakingly real. The result is a testament to the writing and acting of all involved.
Yeah… I know that look
That’s not to say that the mystery is completely ignored. Darcy-Smith skillfully incorporates flashbacks of the fateful night in which Palmer’s boyfriend goes missing, gradually revealing what happened and teasing details that makes you go over every seemingly innocuous line and encounter to figure out what happened. This pays off like a punch to the jaw in the third act, as a relationship meltdown and the climax of the mystery hit simultaneously.
Admittedly, it the film does take its time getting around to explaining that mystery, and I can see how some folks thought it pulls a bait & switch after watching it. The focus seems to waver towards the middle, but it gets back on track with a vengeance. Oh, and that hamster in a wheel visual metaphor is about as subtle as Scorcese’s rat.
Thanks, The Departed. Got it.
This is a tense, affecting relationship drama in the guise of a tense, affecting mystery thriller. The cast and crew make both sides of that coin shine. Highly recommended.
Take a Drink: whenever somebody buys a trinket
Take a Drink: whenever someone does something startlingly uncompassionate
Take a Drink: whenever the movie makes you wish you were in Southeast Asia
Do a Shot: whenever the opposite happens