A man stumbles, shirtless, bloody and shell-shocked, among garbage piles and wild dogs in a remote part of Cambodia.
How he got there, what it meant, and how he’ll with it are the central questions of the Australian thriller “Wish You Were Here.” Writer-director Kieran Darcy-Smith tells his tale in a deliberately fractured manner, jumping back and forth between moments during a vacation in Cambodia and the aftermath back home in Australia. The result is a film that is exactly the sum of its parts, no more and no less.
Dave (Joel Edgerton) begrudgingly agreed to go on that vacation with his wife (Felicity Price), her younger sister (Teresa Palmer) and the sister’s new boyfriend (Antony Starr). We catch brief, color-saturated glimpses of them dancing in the streets, taking drugs. But back home in Australia, everyone seems haunted and wary. Well, not everyone — the boyfriend didn’t come back.
What happened to him is revealed in dribs and drabs of information, as Darcy-Smith cuts back and forth between Australia and Cambodia, What anchors the film is Edgerton’s performance. So often called on to play masculine, even menacing figures in “The Great Gatsby” and “Animal Kingdom,” here he’s very convincing as a scared and possibly guilty man. It’s a canny performance, because Danny can only reveal emotionally to the audience at a given point in the movie only what the plot has revealed dramatically.
Finally, the film gives us our answer, but then shuffles off the stage rather quickly without dealing with the consequences. The result is a film that’s engrossing when you watch it but, like a vacation taken a long time ago, quickly dissipates in your memory.
The Blu-ray release, which captures both the fiery reds and oranges of Cambodia and the cool blues and grays of Australia, includes making-of featurettes and cast interviews.