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Movie Review – The Hollywood Reporter

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Wheel begins, like so many other films, with a couple driving to a cabin in the woods. He is conciliatory but increasingly frustrated; she is brooding, more focused on her phone than on the scenery. The trip is a last-ditch effort to save their eight-year marriage, not that she seems so optimistic about their prospects. They are greeted in their Airbnb by a host who is perhaps a little too friendly, at least to the taste of the woman.

It’s a setup that sets us up for the possibility of big reveals to come, whether it’s sci-fi and horror type or the genre that ends with teary secrets and screaming matches. But while there are some of these, stuffed with a few sweet red herrings, the biggest surprise of all turns out to be how effective Wheel intensifies his bittersweet emotions. Not everything clicks into the movie – even on a second viewing, armed with a better understanding of the characters at his heart, his first act turns out to be more cryptic than it seems strictly necessary – but he can’t be faulted. for lack of feeling.

Wheel

The bottom line

The thorny relationship drama reveals hidden depths.

Place: Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema)

To throw: Amber Midthunder, Taylor Gray, Bethany Anne Lind, Nelson Lee

Director: Steve rose

Scriptwriter : Trent Atkinson

1 hour 23 minutes

At first, however, Wheel mostly just seems sour. While Albee (Amber Midthunder) shows flashes of tenderness and concern towards Walker, she spends most of her time in a shell so prickly she can seem downright monstrous. Albee’s husband Walker (Taylor Gray) spends so much time begging her to try and engage in the exercises they’ve planned to bring them together that it’s hard to see why they haven’t. already separated.

Recently engaged host couple Carly (Bethany Anne Lind), a sweet girl next door, and Ben (Nelson Lee), a handsome ex-musician, initially appear to be on much firmer ground. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Albee and Walker’s drama will also begin to reveal fault lines between Carly and Ben – especially once Carly invites the young couple over for lunch over Ben’s objections, in the movie. hope she can help them heal. Before they knew it, the meal turned into hell’s double date, as the four tear each other apart over an uncomfortably personal question from the relationship self-help book by Walker.

Wheel frustrating in its first half, as it seems like the obvious solution to all of these people’s problems is just for each to go about their own business and go their separate ways. (Trent Atkinson’s script seems particularly oblivious to the fact that Carly’s “bullshit to save people”, as Ben crudely puts it, goes from holy to unseemly.) Away from the characters they present themselves to each other and to the world to uncover the devastating truths lurking beneath them. Even the seemingly broken relationship between Albee and Walker turns out to be infinitely more complicated than it appears at first glance.

Director Steve Pink, best known for his great comedies like the Hot tub time machine films, here favors a hand-held camera that emphasizes intimacy and raw emotion even when the characters prefer to turn away, and soft natural lighting that tempers their hardest moments. All of her tracks benefit from her close attention, but nothing more than Midthunder, whose anxious body language reveals the insecurity and vulnerability that Albee desperately tries to cover in cruelty. The second half of Wheel, and especially her captivating final scene, belongs to her performance, which is as painful to watch as an open wound.

With just a handful of locations, a cast of less than half a dozen main characters, and stakes no greater than the happiness (or at least acceptability) of the characters we met 82 minutes ago, the movie looks tiny in some ways. But it does have an emotional impact, made all the more powerful by a rather non-Hollywood refusal to put a tidy bow on much of anything or even suggest that such a thing might one day be possible. Wheel maybe not, well, reinvent the wheel. But in his expansive empathy, he offers something that nonetheless seems new and surprising.

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