The new Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone vehicle The Wait is about two sisters, one of whom believes their dead mother will come back to life if her body remains in the house. It’s a sketchy premise that calls for some deft character development to make believable, so it’s to the credit of M. Blash, the film’s writer and director, that he can mostly skim over the original jumping-off point and create a compelling narrative about how we experience loss in our relationships.
The film centers on sisters Emma (played by Sevigny), and Angela (played by Malone), and their differed grieving experiences. After getting a mysterious phone call from a psychic, Emma tries to convince skeptical Angela to keep the body. Whether she truly believes her mother will come back to life is left unclear (thankfully - investing in that motivation would require a suspension of disbelief the movie doesn’t quite bother earning), and the rest of the ninety minutes explores the affect of on Emma and Angela, and their relationships with Emma’s children, Angela’s new love interest, and with one another.
Blash’s screenplay mostly eschews realistic dialogue for heavy symbolism, which is sometimes visibly difficult for his younger actors to deliver. In fact, the whole cast seems strangely stiff throughout, and it’s hard to tell whether this is a stylistic choice or just bad direction. The movie’s real strength is its thoughtful cinematography. Blash’s direction makes ample use of its rural Oregon setting, and often manages to accomplish more through framing and lighting than with any line of dialogue.As essentially a mood piece, this works in the film's favor, its wordless scenes being some of its most affecting.
Despite the seemingly fantastical premise, no one should go into The Wait expecting magic. At its best, it’s abstract and emotionally perceptive is in the vein of something by Sofia Coppola or Julia Leigh; at its worst, it misses out on character development in favor of hit-or-miss stylistic choices. Overall, however, it’s a promising early work, and worth seeing for anyone interested in a depiction of sisterhood and family.
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