Sold on the line that the new Australian film Wish You Were Here was this year's Animal Kingdom, we went along to the cinema to see it on Saturday night. While neither film presents a flattering picture of contemporary Australians, Wish You Were Here, disappointingly, was never in Animal Kingdom's league.
Which is not to say it wasn't worth seeing. The film is never boring. Its portrayal of Australians treating Asia as their playground, a place to abandon normal standards of behaviour and spend as much time as possible completely ripped, is probably all too accurate. However, it didn't make the main characters particularly sympathetic. Additionally, I found the plot pretty unbelievable in a number of places. This may merely indicate that I lead a sheltered life, but it seemed unlikely to me that a couple - one member of whom was pregnant - would abandon their two small children for a week in order to head off to Cambodia for a holiday with a young relative and her boyfriend, who they had barely met. Once there, I was pretty surprised that the pregnant wife seemed unperturbed when her husband decides to indulge in a few recreational drugs. On their return to Sydney, I was even more astonished by some of the decisions taken by the pregnant wife, decisions that I suspected a male scriptwriter might believe in but that most women who have been pregnant would view as fairly unlikely - my sense is that, no matter what your own emotional turmoil may be, when pregnant you never ignore the safety of your unborn child.
The film is well-acted and beautifully shot and it provides a pretty damning indictment of a kind of thoughtless, ignorant hedonism that may be all too prevalent in Sydney - it will certainly confirm everything my Victorian relatives think about Sydneysiders. The trouble is I'm not sure the story of a bunch of extremely shallow people (and, if you don't think they're shallow, how do you explain their equanimity in the face of Gracie's unscheduled appearance, which, after delivering a momentary emotional jolt, appears to leave their lives quite unruffled) really amounts to anything, especially as the ending just dribbles out.