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The Wait | Review

Time Crimes: Blash’s Sophomore Feature of an Ambient Weirdness

M. Blash The Wait PosterDirector M. Blash brings back two leads from his 2006 debut, Lying, for more rural weirdness with The Wait, this time exploring the effect of a matriarch’s death on a trio of siblings. Oddly and intriguingly textured, it’s a rather equal mix of supernatural elements, and morbid psychology, chock full of enough visual motifs and narrative thematics on life as a series of waiting periods between brief and sparse moments of action. In fact, its rather striking imagery holds more clues as to what’s going on than the minimal dialogue, a series of purposefully composed shots signaling that whether dying or being born, we’re stuck in an endless cycle of waiting for the next stage of existence.

In the countryside somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, a mother has just died. Her distraught daughters, Emma (Chloe Sevigny) and Angela (Jena Malone) immediately begin dealing with the situation in different ways. As Angela prepares the body to be removed from the house, Emma answers a mysterious phone call, the caller asking her zodiac sign before confirming that her mother “will return.” Using the call as proof that mom’s not really dead, Emma goes about organizing a party for the return, and turns away the morticians that Angela called to come pick up the body. While certainly not in agreement with Emma, Angela doesn’t push the issue, wrapped up in her own issues about a year old breakup. They have a younger brother, Ian (Devon Gearhart), who seems more interested in lazily following around a young girl whilst sharing creepy YouTube videos with a friend’s dad (Josh Hamilton), where a hint of the homoerotic slightly rears its head. And then there’s Emma’s young daughter, who makes a friend in the woods with Ben (Luke Grimes), whose family lives nearby. Angela seems curious about Ben, and she uses developing interactions with him to distract herself from the death of her mother and that break-up she never got over.

The Wait is a moody, slow burn; its supernatural elements dealing with death and resurrection are introduced as mere details of a surreal unknown, the seemingly endless cycle teasing at some kind of Bunuelian nightmare. Blash’s film, as he admits, is inspired and invokes abstract concepts from Russian science fiction films, perhaps most obviously Tarkovsky as it gushes into triangular portals of concurrent existences in the final frames, leading up to a rushed montage that will make you wish for the control to rewind. An encroaching forest fire, like some kind of hellish and inevitable punishment looms precariously in the smoky mountain views of Kaspar Tuxen’s cinematography, yet no one seems terribly concerned about all that.

While the title certainly indicates Blash’s grandest theme, its characters paralyzed in each of their own paradigms, there’s a whole lot more being said about birth and death, perhaps best exemplified in the treatment of seemingly unhinged Emma, the one who buys into the notion that mom’s coming back real soon. Fashioning her willowy locks into curls, Emma does the same to her daughter in one of many acts of regression. We see her huddled in a circular tub, as if ensconced in amniotic fluid, and she rewatches a rather graphic video of when she gave birth to her daughter, which she excitedly shares with her child. Then she’s off to buy a puppy as a surprise for mom’s return party, but lack of cash means she can only afford the preemie.

In essence, just as there’s a right way to be born, there’s a right way to die. If something’s wrong with how you go out or how you come in, it upsets a natural balance. The cast is uniformly engaging, though the subplot of the younger brother doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as either Sevigny or Malone’s breakdowns. A small role for Michael O’Keefe as Ben’s dad seems a nice touch, if only for the fact that we meet him on a golf course.

While this premiered at the 2013 SXSW film festival, The Wait is getting dumped into very limited release at the beginning of this year, which should make it even more difficult for an appreciative art-house audience to find it. It’s the type of thoughtful, provocative cinema we see little of these days in the English language, a type of cinema that requires (or is at least enhanced by) alert engagement. While lasting profundity may be questionable, The Wait is also haunting, the type of gem you trot out when you want to share something offbeat and intelligent.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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