REVIEW: ‘Wander Darkly’ (2020) is an Uncertain Telling of the Trauma of Loss, and the Pain of Grief.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Wander Darkly has distinguished performances but is unfortunately a shallow exploration of a deep subject matter.”

If you’ve ever sat and wondered what sort of film could be more successfully inventive than A Ghost Story but not as emotionally weighted as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, look no further than Tara Miele’s Wander Darkly

Wander Darkly sees new parents and estranged couple, Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna), relive the events of their relationship and look towards an uncertain future after they are both involved in a traumatic car accident. The couple who, at first glance, appear stuck between death and the afterlife, find themselves wandering aimlessly through old memories. This gives the two the chance to look back at their entire relationship on a deeper level, and analyze with hindsight what every little moment meant not only for their future, but meant to them both on a personal level. 

Adrienne and Matteo are at their wedding, arms wrapped around each other looking very happy and in love.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Once the film finally decides which direction it’s going in, Wander Darkly walks the line between genres. At times you don’t know if you are still watching this heartfelt romantic drama, or if the hard-hitting, almost gruesome scenes we are provided with means it has turned into a full blown horror film. This makes what is already a very interesting film all the more enthralling, as it allows the picture to be entirely unpredictable in its storytelling.

While the dialogue bordered on repetitive and the ambitious exploration of life and death feels slightly offbeat at times, the couples experiences with falling in and out of love felt completely genuine and it is something that makes the film worth staying until the end for, whether you like where the experimental aspects of the story are going narratively or not. This is largely thanks to the two leads, who notably elevate the film with their chemistry, and even more notably through Millers’ different levels of emotion that she brings, but sadly it is not enough to liberate the film altogether. 

Adrienne and Matteo cradle each other's faces in a moment of tension, him attempting to comfort her.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

The film isn’t confusing, but in its attempts at being so unique, the narrative occasionally becomes hard to follow. The fleeting transitions of the fragmented memory scenes, with some characters being able to see Adrienne and others not, make it hard to know if our protagonist is truly dead, or is actually experiencing full psychosis. This makes it hard to know whether or not to believe this story and follow the journey we are being taken on, which in turn restrains the amount of intrigue you can keep. The film does end up giving us a cathartic ending, however the underdevelopment and lack of depth throughout the main flesh of the film means we are never given the chance to care about the characters individually enough for it to pay off.

Overall, Wander Darkly makes great attempts at being profound, but ultimately falls short. Although it tries to deal with heavy issues in an original way, what could have been a captivating consideration of trauma and loss sadly doesn’t provide anything substantial enough for the audience to buy into. Whilst it never reaches its full potential, between the emotional and unexpected plot twists towards the end and the deepened experiences of the characters struggling relationships, it is engaging enough to keep you watching until the end.

Dir: Tara Miele

Prod: Shivani Rawat, Monica Levinson, Samantha Housman, Lynette Howell

Cast: Sienna Miller, Diego Luna

Release Date: December 11th, 2020

Available: Video On Demand