DVD review: Wish You Were Here

posted at 2:01 pm on September 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Alice and Dave Flannery and Alice’s sister Steph return to Australia from what was supposed to a week-long frolic in Cambodia, but there’s something missing: Steph’s boyfriend Jeremy.  No one appears to know what happened to Jeremy — not the authorities in Cambodia, not the authorities in Australia, and not Alice, Steph, or Dave.  Or do they?

Wish You Were Here didn’t get much attention in the United States when it hit theaters in June — or for that matter in Australia, where it only racked up AUD1.5 million, short of its estimated AUD2.5 million budget.  It’s not difficult to see why it disappeared off of American screens; it’s not exactly summer blockbuster material, it has no recognizable actors in this market, and its dark subject material and narrative framing doesn’t give US audiences much reason for interest, let alone investment in a ticket.

That’s too bad, because while Wish You Were Here has its flaws, it provides at least enough grip for audiences to pay attention all the way through to the biggest reveals.  None of the characters are what they seem to be, although the illusions are more human than in a super-espionage vein.  At different stages, the characters attract, repel, and then (perhaps) attract once more as their masks are peeled back to show that humanity underneath.  The mystery of Jeremy’s fate gets peeled back in a similar manner, which at times gets a little tedious as flashbacks come and go rather quickly.  That isn’t as annoying as it was in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, as the flashbacks are more traditional and the two time tracks more or less linear, but at times one wishes for a little more narrative cohesion on one track or another.

It’s not a film for everyone, even after the summer-blockbuster season subsides.  The material does get rather dark, and the mystery involves a disturbing tangent that will have some audience members recoiling — as it does the character involved, and the film comes firmly down on the side of moral outrage in this case, as it should. The cast may be mostly unknown, but it delivers first-rate performances.  It rests entirely on Felicity Price (Farscape), Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, I Am Number Four), and especially Joel Edgerton, who just appeared as Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (which also recently got released on Blu-Ray/DVD).

With that in mind, it may be a little difficult to put on the Hot Air DVD scale for a broad audience.  For me, it was definitely a 3:

  • 4 – Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD
  • 3 – Worth a rental price or pay-per-view
  • 2 – Wait for it to come on a TV channel you already get
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

Wish You Were Here is rated R for language, brief sexuality (no nudity), and very realistic violence. It’s not for children or teenagers.

Also new out this week on Blu-Ray/DVD:

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Never even heard of it. And there are hundreds of titles that fit that description, which is regrettable. But this is what is broken with the Hollywood film machine. The studios are merely a distribution and promotion vehicle, and they spend nearly all of their collective dollars on the most simplistic, formulaic, effects-driven films — and then wonder why box office is down.

John the Libertarian on September 15, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I enjoyed Teresa Palmer in I Am Number Four.
When she blew up the house that was good and when she ran, with guns ablazing, toward the Mogadorians, that was even better.
The beagle was also quite effective.

vityas on September 15, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Added to Netflix queue. Thanks!

bobs1196 on September 15, 2013 at 2:49 PM

I am saving myself for tonight’s BB.

Blake on September 15, 2013 at 2:54 PM


canopfor on September 15, 2013 at 3:11 PM

DVD review: Wish You Were Here

Never heard of it. Watch The Reef, instead.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on September 15, 2013 at 3:24 PM

DVD review: Wish You Were Here

Same as The Beach, but different?
Just added both to Netflix queue.

egmont on September 15, 2013 at 3:40 PM

I wonder if I might find this mysteriously appearing on my harddrive tomorrow. A lot of movies seem to do that.

DarkCurrent on September 15, 2013 at 3:59 PM

Wish You Were Here is rated R for language, brief sexuality (no nudity),

You watch movies that don’t have guaranteed nudity? I’m still waiting for a review of Springbreakers………


King B on September 15, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Caught “This is the End” last night. Anyone who is a fan of the Seth Rogan gang that tends to make movies together will find it hilarious.

xblade on September 15, 2013 at 4:15 PM