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Movies are more often than not tellings of present, physical experiences. Yet everyday there are entire stories people experience without in our heads – conversations we have with our past and present selves to ruminate with. And there’s an invisible string connecting with us our individual and collective fate as humans: we either focus intently on what will meet us on the blurry point at the end of the line, or look away and allow for it to live within us without fear. This is down this deep and introspective avenue that Tara Miele’s Wander Darkly takes its viewers.
Wander Darkly is a rare entry into the romantic drama genre in its ability to actively allure one into its world not through suspense or melodrama, but with a carefully crafted storyline that maintains tight focus on every moment being experienced throughout. Its nonlinear plotting feels reminiscent of Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but comes from a place more grounded in personal tragedy and rooted in examining life from death’s lens.
Wander Darkly twists time and tense in a really engaging and affecting way.
Wander Darkly is the sort of movie that benefits from the less you know the better, so I’ll remain cryptic describing the plot. It is worth not only noting, but applauding, writer/director Tara Miele clearly placed a lot of detail in telling the story in an effective and memorable way. The movie stars Rogue One’s Diego Luna and American Sniper’s Sienna Miller as Matteo and Adrienne, a couple who are stuck in a rut of unhappiness and frequent arguments.
While driving home from an awkward night out together they get into another spat about the state of their relationship before their car suddenly rams into another. Moments later a blood-drenched Adrienne finds herself standing over her own body zipped into a body bag in a hospital. Just as you strap into Wander Darkly’s premise, the movie takes multiple sharp turns that somehow manage to feel smooth and gliding. As the audience is taken down a reflection of the couple’s better days, it plays with tense in an inventive way that takes a simultaneously true and creative approach to processing memories.
Sienna Miller and Diego Luna’s central relationship is filled with nuisances that set it above other relationship dramas of its kind.
Along with Wander Darkly’s difficult concept working to its benefit, Sienna Miller and Diego Luna offer some of their best performances to date. Sienna Miller is the primary protagonist here and it's her journey, and in that sense the movie is more Miller’s than Luna’s. Adrienne could have easily been a rattled mess under another direction. Yet, Miller’s performance is able to portray the complexity in the many dimensions of love Adrienne holds for her Matteo, despite her own reservations about the muddled feelings the pair have developed after years together and as tired, unmarried parents.
Despite its star power, Wander Darkly makes you believe in the existence of them as characters because of how much attention is brought to their roles. While Miller holds the form of the audience, Luna is processing death alongside her, and has an endearing and calm presence that helps guide the film along.
There’s a number of ways one can interpret Wander Darkly, setting itself up for satisfying repeated viewings.
Wander Darkly is the kind of film that may perplex on first viewing. There are many elements enriched upon a repeated viewing, but that's not to undercut the richness of the experience the first time you see it. Like great poetry, Wander Darkly is something that can fill you with emotions and deep thought as you absorb it. Each shot is careful and artistic, the orchestral score and soundtrack will sweep you away. And it has a healing quality that seeks to resemble reaching the other side of loss and grief.