Review: Sienna Miller captivates in mindbending romantic thriller ‘Wander Darkly’

Sienna Miller and Diego Luna on a boat in the movie "Wander Darkly."
Sienna Miller and Diego Luna in the movie “Wander Darkly.”

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Is she dead or alive? Is what we’re watching real or imagined? Is this scene set in the past or the present — or the future? These are but a few of the questions that will surely crop up while watching the mind-, time- and sometimes patience-bending romantic thriller “Wander Darkly,” written and directed with style and empathy by Tara Miele.

It probably would take more than one viewing to fully grasp this deftly edited film’s mosaic-like structure as it tracks the aftermath of a horrible car crash in which passenger Adrienne (Sienna Miller) is possibly killed while arguing with driver Matteo (Diego Luna), her partner and father of their infant daughter.


What follows is a surreal, nonlinear unfolding of images, illusions, flashbacks, projections, dreams and metaphors as seen through the eyes of the desperate Adrienne as she seemingly struggles to reconcile her death (or “death”) as well as her unraveling relationship with Matteo.

From their meet-cute and initial passion to the financial and emotional burdens of home and family, Adrienne and Matteo are seen as a couple who, despite the odds, belong together. That is, if they can get past the jealousies, crossed wires and general frustrations that have crept into their shared life. Among the conflict sources: Adrienne’s helpful if judgmental mother (Beth Grant), whose blunt disdain for Matteo — and vice versa — feels more manufactured than earned.

Then again, what difference will it all make if Adrienne is, in fact, dead and she’s simply reporting in from some kind of cinematic purgatory? And how to explain Matteo’s popping into her transcendent musings for some “in the moment” commentary?

Although the whole thing’s a bit of a jumble, the L.A.-set film becomes more immersive as we slowly adjust to its ambitious conceit and unique rhythms. A solid third-act twist helps square the preceding puzzle pieces and takes us out on a satisfying and moving note.

But the main takeaway here — aside from don’t fight and drive — is what a superb screen presence Miller (a knockout in last year’s under-seen “American Woman”) has become. She turns in a captivating, deeply layered performance as a dazed and tortured soul struggling to survive perhaps the unsurvivable. Someone find her a true signature role, please.

'Wander Darkly'

Rated: R, for language, some sexual content and nudity

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 11, Vineland Drive-in, City of Industry; and in limited release where theaters are open; also on VOD