‘Wander Darkly’ Movie Review: Fractured Narrative Stifles Touching Tale
Everyone loves a good “the main character dies but continually relives portions of their life in order to right some kind of wrong” movie — really, they all do. Wander Darkly is one of those films, and for a moment it seems like something more but then suddenly and disappointingly is not.
Sienna Miller and Pedro Pascal play Adrienne and Matteo, a supremely modern couple who get in one of those jump-scare car crashes during an unsuspecting conversation that movies are so in love with. Adrienne then wakes up in an otherworldly, moving in and out of time as she relives moments with Matteo. Matteo sometimes knows what’s going on, sometimes doesn’t, and generally plays by rules most convenient to the screenwriter (also the director, Tara Miele).
The film brims with emotion: its first half is a stark reminder of how seriously unprepared so many of us are for death and how the experience is almost as confusing as it is scary. There are moments of corny romance and moments of philosophical insight, but it doesn’t exactly go anywhere for much of the film. This is not necessarily an issue — there’s nothing wrong with a movie that ruminates — but when the film finally does go somewhere, it goes there very quickly and with a twist that is, in a word, bad.
Wander Darkly is an impressive film, anchored by Miller’s genuinely staggering performance. What’s unfortunate is how lacking in direction it seems to be; there are moments where it feels like it’s imitating It’s A Wonderful Life interspersed with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind pastiches, both of which find Miele sinking below her peak levels of creative possibility. There is something here, but it hasn’t quite made it to the surface.