by Pat Fox
Whether you have noticed it or not, there is a predictability of film will be released based on the Seasons. Autumn winds bring Sci-Fi and Fantasy epics before the Dark Nights of Winter set in with its Award Bait movies, as Spring Rains come with the Rom-Com and Dramas, and finally the Action and Comic Movies to entertain us during the long days of Summer. It becomes so repetitive that we eventually become completely numb to it so that it takes something special to jar us out of it. Wakefield (2016) ladies and gentlemen is that special something. An autopsies of the human condition of a dozen interlocked and changing stories in which the town of Wakefield not only plays centre stage but is itself a character, as the lives and loves of the characters are told to the psychogeography of Wakefield showing that despite the human barriers we put between ourselves, nationality, creed, class, we are all one people, one consciousness, experiencing life together.
Actually I’m lying. Wakefield is a movie about Bryan Cranston hiding in his garage so he doesn’t have to see a marriage councillor.
After a busy day in New York, corporate lawyer Howard Wakefield’s (Bryan Cranston) train is delayed on the way home due to a power cut. Arriving home late, he decides to hide out in the loft of his garage rather than risk another argument with his wife Diana (Jennifer Garner). However, after seeing the reaction to his disappearance he decides to spend the rest of the day hiding out rather than go talk to his wife and kids. Days turn into weeks and then months as Wakefield gives us a running voiceover monologue that’s one part Godspeed You! Black Emperor to two parts watered down Chuck Palahniuk as he muses on life, love, relationships and sex, all the while watching his wife and kids in the house and scavenging through his neighbour’s bins like an overgrown fox.
Basically it’s a bit like Falling Down (1993) if Michael Douglas discovered voyeurism instead of violence.
Wakefield is something of a terrible person. He takes merciless pleasure in the emotional distress his disappearance is giving his wife and family because it shows that they care about him. And the weird thing is, that’s what makes this movie. Wakefield is less the sadistic gasslighter he could have easily have been and more the 12 year old that runs away from home, only to hide out in the shed to see if their parents really do love them.
And it works, not for them but for Wakefield himself.
There is not one single person who at some point in their lives, when it’s hit a rut, when it’s at its lowest ebb, hasn’t thought of running away. Be it when you were 7 or 67, we think that if we can just leave it all behind us we’ll be fine. Wakefield believes he’s freeing himself from everything; it’s only when he does that he also realises he’s freed himself from being able to play the persona he has made for himself as persecutor and persecuted. The price of his freedom from responsibility is the knowledge of what he has lost.
Which is why seeing a marriage councillor would have been so much easier in the long run.
It’s beautifully shot and seeing Cranston go from respectable lawyer to hobo is great to watch but as I watched a terrible feeling crept over me. This movie wouldn’t work without Cranston; a double edged sword if ever there was one but while we get to see an actor really get to grips with a role we’re also haunted by the fear that they could have easily casted Pauly Shore by mistake. It’s a terrifying thought and one that could drive most over the brink.
The main flaw with this movie is that if I didn’t have to watch it to write a review I would have given it a miss. The premise is somewhat lacklustre, and when I saw the poster and heard the blurb I thought I was going to be getting a by the numbers psychological horror based around a character like Christopher Eccleston’s in Shallow Grave (1994) instead of the dramedy that it is. It’s not a movie you can just switch on, you need to get into the right mood to watch but when you are you’re in for a treat.
Dir: Robin Swicord
Scr: Robin Swicord
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner
Prd: Bonnie Curtis, Wendy Federman, Julie Lynn, Carl Moellenberg
DOP: Andrei Bowden-Schwartz
Music: Aaron Zigman
Wakefield is on digital platforms on July 28th, on DVD from July 31st, 2017