‘Wander’ tells the story of a tragedy stricken private investigator who goes too deep when probing into a small town murder and the weird events around it.
Directed by: April Mullen.
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Tommy Lee Jones, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham, Raymond Cruz, Brendan Fehr, Nicole Steinwedell, Colby Crain, Roger Dorman, David Gibson, Moses Munoz, Elizabeth Selby, Stephen R. Estler, Ian McLaren, Deborah Chavez, Ramona King, Heath Hensley, Celine R. Lopez, Helene Wren, Harriet Divine, Josh Vigil.
Running time: 94 minutes.
The opening shot of Wander is one of the best I’ve seen recently. It’s a continuous shot that tells a story in a few seconds. One that awakes the interest in a viewer that doesn’t need to be engaged yet, but is enforced to do so after a enigmatic event that has no possible explanation in relation to the movie’s initial statement: It’s a direct message about border control and the victims of an uncontrolled environment of enforcement. Is this important for the movie? It must be. At least that’s what I kept telling myself after started unraveling a confusing story that ended up being a distant cousin to Wander‘s confident beginning.
Aaron Eckhart stars as Arthur Bretnik, a private investigator whose past has strongly shaped him into being a conspiracy theorist with a disastrous mindset. He spends his days making a podcast about these conspiracy theories, and participating in insurance fraud. Jimmy Cleats (a perfectly placed Tommy Lee Jones), a good friend and podcast partner, offers Arthur a case in which he must solve a murder in a small town. A decent pay convinces Arthur to go to Wander, a town that seems to have been forgotten by time and civilization. Here, he discovers a series of events so mysterious that he finds it impossible to stay away from going deeper. His obsession is increased when he notices a relation between this town’s several mysteries and the death of his daughter.
Wander is directed by April Mullen, a young director whose experience allows her to form a logical story around a movie that’s particularly “unsafe” in defining a specific genre. We could say Wander is a long X-Files episode that someone lost. And we could also say it’s just a perfect opportunity to showcase the dramatic skills of an actor who’s trapped in a movie that keeps twisting and confusing the viewer. Yes, up until that last shot, we are in the hands of a writer that knows exactly what he’s doing but is not prone to shape up the idea he plays with.
We love these movies, it’s really hard not to. And we are willing to accept shifts and plot holes, in order to sustain an interesting story of heroes and villains. Mostly due to Wander‘s fantastic cast, the movie forces us to stay there and hold, waiting for answers.
ut do we really care at the end?
It’s a risky movie, and I really appreciate that. I love it when movies step into dangerous territories of genre exploration, and Wander does a great job out of this. But all scripts need to be doctored at some point. Stories are important, but they should also feel important. Mullen does a great job at directing a movie that winks at something we need to start noticing. Injustice is real, and we need to open our eyes. And if extreme fiction serves as a helpful element, then we must welcome it. But let’s not confuse the viewer. He’s our greatest warrior in the battle of telling stories that need to be expanded and shared.
Note: I would have loved to see more of Raymond Cruz. There’s a character actor that we don’t see enough of. Every one of his scenes in Wander, feels like a backstory that just needs to be told.