Canadian director April Mullen made a shallow shocker in 2016 Below Her Mouth, a film about lesbian lust that had critics booing her to the blink. Wander (available on Video On Demand) has opened to far better reviews. Though I can’t say which is worse: the pseudo-sophisticated sleaziness of Below Her mouth or the noire pretensions of this thriller about an investigative detective who is far more unstable than this wobbly film can ever be. Wander opens with a car crash on a dusty highway. A young woman stumbles out of the shattered vehicle bleeding and stumbling, and soon she falls to the ground as a bullet comes flying at her.
Why stage an elaborate road accident only to have the survivor shot down? This kind of double shock is in keeping with the baggy character of a film that doesn’t seem to know its mind, whether we should go with the unreliable mind or don’t mind the mind-numbing funny business in the washed-out town of Wander.
Either way, we are the losers. The film piles on the cryptic climate like a global warning. But it all seems like a storm in a teacup at the end. The very talented Australian actor Aaron Eckhart is cast as the psycho-skidding Arthur. Invited to investigate the murder which opens the film Aaron soon finds himself unable, to tell the truth from imagination.
Is what Arthur seeing and hearing happening? Who the hell cares! We are told he has been this way ever since he lost his daughter in an accident. Now in his muddled mind, the past catastrophe and the current crisis seem to be yoked at the hips like two Siamese who can’t see eye-to-eye.
The narrative is filled with conspiratorial whispers and incriminating gunshots. But nothing is as it seems. The staggering edifice comes crashing down as we are plunged into a government conspiracy to plant chips into human beings. It’s all too ambitious for its own good. And saddening to see Aaron Eckhart struggling to make sense of his character’s disturbed mind. It’s even sadder to see the very talented Tommy Lee Jones, once a part of some of America’s most important films, now playing what seems to be Eckhart’s glorified sidekick.
Some of us still remember Heather Graham for Urban Cowboy. Here she is just a puppet on a g-string, swinging from scene to scene in search of a world beyond stifled screams.
Directed by April Mullen, Wander gets 1 and a half stars
Image source: Instagram/april_mullen,youtube/moviecoverage/imbd
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