Some of the best films that come out of independent cinema are the ones in which actors and directors write for themselves to create an opportunity. Wish You Were Here, an Australian import that was a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival, is the perfect example. The film tells the story of a husband and wife (Joel Edgerton and Felicity Price, who co-wrote the film) who travel to exotic Cambodia with her younger sister and new boyfriend (Teresa Palmer and Anthony Starr), only to have their carefree getaway derailed when one of them disappears without a trace.
[My husband/co-writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith and I] both have been independently and together fascinated by the idea of the people left behind when someone disappears," Price explains to ETonline. "Especially when you just don't know what happened to them. … The story of four people going away [to Southeast Asia and one not returning] is actually inspired by a true story. It happened to a friend of ours."
But rather than keep the action solely in Cambodia, Wish You Were Here delves into what happens afterwards, and how the principal characters' mundane, domestic lives slowly begin to unravel back in Sydney.
"I was quite captivated by the drama inherent in the idea of how do the other people feel when you get back on the plane and have to go home eventually?" says Price. "Do they feel responsible? Do they feel like they could have done something differently? And what did happen? … The umbrella of the story is this missing person. The drama of it is the relationships disintegrating when one of the couple feels they want to keep secrets from the other."
From the opening frames, it's clear that Edgerton's character has something to hide, and when questioned by authorities, his recounting of events begins to show inconsistencies. As the story progresses, the fateful events of that final night begin to unfold, and the pieces of the puzzle slowly start coming together through flashbacks in Cambodia. And it's not what you would think.
"You hit Southeast Asia, and the smells and the humidity and the air and the chaos of it is so evocative," says Price. "But also there's a real dark side to a lot of those back alleys. … The idea of when you go away on holidays you can have a tendency to let loose a bit, to behave a little differently than you normally would -- that's where we put our characters, in a place where they can behave a little bit differently, but kind of go to dark places."
Despite the serious subject matter, Price says she and her husband had a blast making the film with their dream cast, including Edgerton, who is a best buddy of Kieran's, having worked together on the critically acclaimed Animal Kingdom.
"It was just so much fun," beams Price. "[It doesn't]matter if you've got tears streaming down your face [during a scene], you're just having a great time because we're making our film after years of writing it – and it's such a big deal to get a film off and finished."
Wish You Were Here is out today on DVD.