When a loved one dies, sometimes those left behind experience a sort of purgatory themselves, a pause seized by grief. "The Wait" opens with just such a passing of a family matriarch, and a mysterious phone call convinces Emma (Chloë Sevigny) that her mother will rise from the dead like Lazarus. Or Jesus. They just have to wait.
Emma's sister Angela (Jena Malone), going through some kind of breakup, finds the situation macabre but uses the break from daily life to reclaim her sense of freedom after a relationship of neglect. And their little brother Ian (Devon Gearhart) slips into the Oregon forest to make up with a friend.
Looming over the family's mourning are encroaching fires and airplanes painting the sky with crimson clouds of retardant. The planet Mars has drawn closer to the Earth than ever before, but they can't see it for the smoke and ash, floating down as if in a snow globe. Writer-director M. Blash's sophomore film is ethereal and trippy, told less in scenes than in oblique snatches, not unlike the experience of emotional paralysis.
This approach grows wearying, however, as questions mount and answers are slim, distracted by a score that veers from synth to symphonic.
"The Wait." MPAA rating: R for sexual content, brief nudity, language and drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Playing: At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.