“Wander Darkly”: Film Review | Sundance 2020

Wander Darkly

Sienna Miller and Diego Luna star in writer-director Tara Miele’s fourth feature which explores the afterlife of a broken relationship, both figuratively and literally, in an emotional roller coaster that leaves you in emotional ruins when it ends.

The fourth and latest feature by writer-director Tara Miele (her first feature since 2014’s Starving in Disturbia and the recent viral short Meet a Muslim) is a slippery romantic drama that keeps the audience unsteady through its entire run but the ride is worth every heartbreaking minute at its climax. The film centers around the relationship of Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) who are miserable and unhappy with their relationship. Matteo is a slacker and cannot seem to find work or a good paying job; they have a 6-month-old daughter; they have a new mortgage and Adrienne is not working. They attempt to go on date nights opting for free dinner parties by friends than a romantic evening getaway with each other… but at the climax of a fight they have in the car on the way home… CRASH. A gruesome car crash leaving one or both or neither of them dead? They can’t rewind time but they can re-experience it as they attempt to re-live and fabricate every up and down moment that has defined their relationship.

Miller and Luna play the ill-fated couple with a wry detachment from the beginning. The cynicism allows them to create big predictable emotions for subtler layers. Luna’s character is more of a playboy and “mansplainer” that is casually guiding Miller’s resigned Adrienne. Luna is terrifically funny and heartwarming throughout with Miller given some comedic light when she’s mocking Matteo’s flirtatious friend Shae (Aimee Carrero), who seems to be the antagonistic element in the relationship. At times the chemistry between the stars isn’t quite compelling for the heartbreaking urgency behind the film’s themes but it’s the puzzle-piece like narrative that envelops you in a mystery that keeps us engaged.

The technical craft behind the film’s best moments is wonderfully powerful. Alex Weston’s piano score is very lovely and accompanies Carolina Costa’s dizzying cinematography that perfectly transports the viewer from reality into surrealism with the blink of an eye. In certain sequences, the characters will enter a room in one shirt and return in a completely different outfit – the only clue given to the audience that time has passed. The emotional currents of the characters’ is how the film is charted and the characters say what is on their minds. The costume designs by Christopher Lawrence, though modern, are the closest things and essential in keeping the audience tethered to the narrative.

The film asks a lot of its audience especially to keep riding the emotional ride that the narrative creates even when it confuses you with its time jumping moments or sharp editing and at its final moments, it satisfies the viewer with a satisfying ending. Miele bounces backwards a bit to the film’s bleakest early moments to help you understand the narrative as a complete picture. There is plenty of good stuff, tropes and dark and winsome moments in the film and Miele directs with precision and an artistic eye that by the end of the film you are both dazzled and confused – all in a positive light.

JAKKAWI: B

“Wander Darkly” premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition Category. At press time, the film is awaiting distribution.

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Sienna Miller, Diego Luna and Tara Miele at the Sundance 2020 Film Festival; photo courtesy of Deadline

Director: Tara Miele.
Screenwriter: Tara Miele.
Music by: Alex Weston.
Cinematography: Caroline Costa.
Production: 51 Entertainment, ShivHans Pictures.
With: Sienna Miller, Diego Luna, Beth Grant, Aimee Carrero, Tory Kittles, and Vanessa Bayer.

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