Review| Wander Darkly (2020)

Review| Wander Darkly (2020)

Wander Darkly tells a story about a couple struggling to make their relationship work as it gets upended by a traumatic event. The story follows Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) as they look back on their relationship. Together they try to figure out why they are together. They begin to find new meaning and connection with each other. Through their journey, we can perhaps see glimpses of how our lives intertwine with God’s timing and love.
Every turn and twist in the story adds new meaning to Matteo and Adrienne’s relationship. The film shows them growing progressively closer together after wrenching them apart. At the beginning of the film, their relationship tests their sanity: they can’t see eye to eye with each other, they are always at odds with each other, and each thinks the other one is a cheater. They both feel like they’re only together because of their baby. Their fights never end.
Then the accident happens. Mid-argument, they suffer a head-on collision while returning home from a party, and from this point, the timeline and reality of events become blurred. Adrienne has an out of body experience, seeing herself dead, but soon she wakes up in her bed at home, Matteo by her side. She was in a coma. Instead of questioning why this happened, Adrienne falls into deep confusion; nothing is linear for her, or for the viewer.
Wander Darkly uses time brilliantly. Adrienne achingly struggles after the traumatic event. Director Tara Miele draws from her own life to portray it, telling a story of what trauma looks like and how it is experienced. Adrienne goes through a time of psychosis; she hallucinates seeing shadows, shapes, and people where people are not. Her confusion is real. After being convinced by her friends, family, and Matteo, she sees a psychiatrist who prescribes her medication. Her symptoms begin to fade as she reaches some normalcy.
Once Adrienne becomes somewhat stable, she begins to look back on the relationship with Matteo. He helps to assuage Adrienne’s fears and delusions by helping her reach through their memories together. Adrienne continues to have a hard time keeping track of what was in the present and what was in the past. Time can be like this with God. God doesn’t move linearly; He sees what is before us, what is after us, and what is with us now. He can see above and below it all. That can help us understand that what happens in our lives doesn’t always have a cause and effect, but that God is in control.
Adrienne begins to look at the times she thought Matteo had been cheating. The time keeps slipping back and forth. Adrienne can’t seem to put together what is what she thinks versus what really happened. While it eventually gets resolved, maybe it didn’t matter, but she needed some reconciliation. God doesn’t work in our own time and it’s not for us to know.
During the second half of the film, Adrienne begins to have visions of Death. Her mind replays the accident over and over. Every time it gets replayed in her mind, she sees Death coming for her. Everywhere she turns she sees his skeletal face. But she comes back to Matteo, who patiently waits with her and helps her return to the present. Sometimes life can feel like it is out to get us. But in reality God waits patiently for us, bringing us back, if only we would look to him. Matteo brings Adrienne back to their relationship, as they begin to see the importance of one another in each other’s lives.
The trauma overwhelms Adrienne again. Her hallucinations increase despite Matteo’s presence. Often we don’t want to believe God even when he’s there. Adrienne becomes suicidal and makes attempts on her life. But again, Matteo is there for her. He is always there for her. He is able to talk her through her suffering and reminds him of his love for her. In time, Adrienne begins to see that they loved each other from the beginning and their love never ended, they just needed to find it again. Matteo and Adrienne’s love for each other was evident through their difficulties so that when we get to the end, our feelings are emotionally charged.
Wander Darkly is a love story that shows us, through its Adrienne and Matteo, how God loves us despite our sufferings and despite our knowing. God loves us unconditionally and in time that supersedes human time.
Time and love in Wander Darkly are inextricably linked with God’s time and love. Miroslav Volf claims in For the Life of the World that “the essential core of theological work is critically examining, articulating, and commending a vision of flourishing life inscribed in the story of Jesus Christ, God come to dwell among humans.” Adrienne’s flourishing life depended on God’s love for her on earth in time.
And like Matteo’s patient love through uncertain time, God is acting between himself and the world. He is not far off looking from above and observing, he is active, with us, now and always, before and after. As Volf notes, “the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed and enacted is a particular kind of dynamic relation between God and the world […] the purpose of theology is then to help human beings identify God’s home as their home and to help us journey toward it.” Matteo constantly tries to bring Adrienne “home” from her trapped mind into the real world. He helps her through trauma, grounding her into the present.
This is our condition as well. We are trapped in our own selfish minds, through our sin and sins of the world. But our home is with God; when we look to him and trust in him, we are brought home.
Home is the flourishing life not only in heaven but on earth when we are with God. Volf says, “suffering and apparent failure were, in Christ’s life, intimately related to the true flourishing life.” What I think he means is that when we suffer as Christ suffered, we are participating in the life that Christ died for us to live. It is, as Volf continues, the “good life, true life, or, in biblical terms, ‘abundant life’ (John 10:10) or ‘the life that really is life (1 Timothy 6:19).’”
I wrote above that “God loves us unconditionally in time that supersedes human time.” Volf agrees with me, when he writes, “The central attribute of God is unconditional love.” He also says, “human beings live in the stream of time and always at a given place.”
But God doesn’t. So God sent Jesus; to love us patiently, to guide us and ground us, and to be in our particular time to bring us home through his death so that we could have life. An abundant life.

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