A decade after her directorial debut with The Jane Austen Book Club and Academy-Award nominated writer Robin Swicord is back behind the camera for her sophomore feature: Wakefield.

Cranston plays our eponymous Howard Wakefield. He has a beautiful wife, Diana (Jennifer Garner), two beautiful daughters, a nice home and a pretty good job to round off his comfortable life in Manhattan. However, it's not happiness and, deep down, Howard feels trapped and lost. After a chain of events lead him to spend a night in his garage, observing his family from the comforts of its isolation, he decides to stay there - away from his family and his life; leaving everyone to wonder what happened to him. But, as days and - eventually - months pass with Howard refusing to return home, adamant to continue peering into his family's lives from the outside, it begins to beg the question of whether or not he can return to the normal life he left behind.
As Swicord's written work has proven before (the likes of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the recent The Promise and even Jane Austen Book Club), she likes her poignancy and off-kilter perspectives. Wakefield is certainly no exception. It channels that inner-Benjamin Button, a sharp-edged character study that is often meditative and provocative in its eventual narrative arc. Departing our lives and peering in on them from the outside is something we've all wanted to do before - after a bad day at work, an argument with the wife or your friends or whatever events that may lead us to those thoughts: we've all wished for it. Wakefield takes that sought after demand and gives it scale and vigour - what happens when you just disappear, for months; how does one go from that upper-class life to nothing; how does one's family cope; what does it do a human? And these are all questions that Swicord's writing expertly explores in Wakefield, and to such fascinating length. The character of Howard Wakefield, himself, is a compelling one; he's flawed and sociopathic - almost hard to root for, at first. But we eventually empathise with him and grow to enjoy his company and his presence; learning about this self-discovering journey with him, growing as he grows: we are actually a part of his journey as a character. And Bryan Cranston is astonishing in the role; so subdued and reserved and thoroughly compelling and hiding so much pain within his character.

Wakefield is a rather meditative character study, awfully slow and pensive in its storytelling. There's a poignancy to it all as the film really seeps into your skin and sticks with you for quite some time. It is a slow-burn - perhaps a little too slow at times, feeling a little longer than it needed to be, due, largely, to a middle act that grounds to a halt unnecessarily for some time. Also, aside from the character of Howard Wakefield, there is little depth and nuance to the other characters, most of whom feel one-dimensional and lack that compelling edge that Swicord so patiently carves out with our leading man. That's not to say the performances are bad; far from it, even, as Jennifer Garner gives some solid supporting work here. But, there's little to care for in anyone aside from Howard. Maybe it's purposeful. Maybe not. But it certainly takes you out the story when everyone feels so bland. In the end, though, Wakefield is still a very good film. It's obviously not without its flaws and its baggage but, like we do with the character of Howard Wakefield, we come to appreciate it as this poetic journey that we oddly relate to that lingers with us for some time after the credits roll. 

VERDICT:

Wakefield is an absorbing, meditative character study that is ever so poignant and brilliantly entertaining.

Tagged as

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

Related Posts

0 comments