Thought experiment time. What do you get when you cross A Ghost Story with something almost resembling City of Angels or Wings of Desire? Well, nothing, really, since that’s a nearly impossible premise. However, if you squint, those influences are seen in Wander Darkly, the new spectral romantic drama hitting screens. Boosted by two really good performances and a solidly unusual premise, this film overcomes a few hiccups to wind up making for an engaging experience. The movie won’t blow you away, but the acting on display may. That alone makes this one worth your while, especially in terms of the turn from Sienna Miller.
Wander Darkly has one of Sienna Miller’s very best performances to date. Miller has been doing stronger and stronger work in independent cinema of late, with this just being the latest example. One gets the sense that she’s moving ever closer to her first Academy Award nomination. Her turn here might end up slipping through the cracks, Oscar-wise, but it’s just a matter of time with Miller.
Adrienne (Miller) and Mateo (Diego Luna) are a long-term couple and new parents. The spark in their relationship has long gone out, replaced with simmering resentments and a longing for the passion that used to exist. When tragedy strikes in the form of a first act car crash, Adrienne is forced to reckon with the relationship, as well as the life she’s lived.
Wandering around outside of her body, Adrienne revisits prior moments in her partnership with Mateo. The experience not only reminds her why she loves him, but gives her a new appreciation for her life. At the same time, the thought that she may be unable to continue on in the world haunts her. To say more would spoil the narrative, but it goes in some directions you’ll expect, as well as some you won’t.
Sienna Miller is incredibly compelling here. She and Diego Luna have strong chemistry together, so each make the other’s performance even better. Luna is charming and keeps just a hint of the air of mystery around him, while Miller gets to showcase a wide range of emotions. Her character is the true focus, so she gets a bit more to do, but both turn in very fine work. Supporting characters like Vanessa Bayer and Beth Grant are under-utilized, but Luna and Miller sure aren’t. Miller especially is allowed to shine, making it almost impossible to take your eyes off of her.
Filmmaker Tara Miele deserves credit for taking some elements of movies we’ve seen before and doing something different with it. Having a female protagonist sure doesn’t hurt, too. Miele effectively directs her screenplay, for the most part (a small quibble: the cinematography is unnecessarily dark), taking some chances, even if not all of them pay off. There’s a little too much left to be figured out early on, while the end kind of wraps things up a bit too neatly. In that way, the script could have used a bit more of a balancing act. To be sure, Miele has made a good film here, especially considering the performances she got out of Diego Luna and Sienna Miller. There’s just the small thought in the back of your head that this is only good, when it could have been great.
Wander Darkly has two ace performances working in its favor. In particular, Sienna Miller is really doing really compelling work. The spectral moments in this romance work more than they don’t, so while there’s a few narrative missteps, it’s mostly a success. If you’re a Luna and/or Miller fan, this is one to check out. It goes into release tomorrow, so give it a look…