Wakefield (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

BRYAN CRANSTON DELIVERS ANOTHER GREAT PERFOMANCE IN THIS THOUGHT-PROVOKING, POETIC AND REALLY ENGAGING DRAMA


Intro: 

After witnessing the absolute masterpiece which was: “Breaking Bad” – I’ll gladly watch any film or TV series that features Bryan Cranston in it with absolutely no questions asked.  He’s quickly become of the best actors of his generation and of all time in my eyes and so when I first discovered that a movie called: “Wakefield”  *based on by E. L. Doctorow’s acclaimed short story of the same name* was in development – all it took was Bryan Cranston’s name in the news article for my interest to be peaked.  I had never read the source material but I didn’t care – I was intrigued none-the-less.

Then, in the following months, I saw a trailer for the film and my interest only grew farther as I discovered what the film would actually be about.  The premise was great and this movie looked like it had the potential to be one of 2017’s greats and it quickly rose on my Summer ’17 watch-list as a must-see film.

Well, I finally got to see the film this week and as you can see from the headline of this review – I really enjoyed it.

Before we dive in further though, here’s a brief synopsis of the plot…

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Plot: 

What would your life look like without you in it? Outwardly, Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is the picture of success. He has a loving wife (Jennifer Garner) and two daughters, a prestigious job as a Manhattan lawyer, and a comfortable home in the suburbs. Inwardly, though, he’s suffocating. One day, something snaps and Howard goes into hiding in his garage attic. Leaving his family to wonder what happened to him, he observes them from the attic window—an outsider spying in on his own life. However,  as the days of self-imposed isolation stretches longer than he planned, Howard begins to wonder: is it even possible to go back to the way things were? (IFC Films)

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Review: 

While, I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again, I can safely say that “Wakefield” is a really solid drama that is definitely worth checking out at least once in your lifetime. Bryan Cranston is great here – as he always is and he really quite literally leads the film here – taking on the lead role as well as the film’s narration too *with much of the film’s dialogue consisting entirely of his thoughts*.  The other characters don’t really get to act much here outside of the occasional flashback but this is an absolute Tour De Force for Cranston here so it’s not really an issue at all – he carries 99% of the film on his own. His character: Howard confines himself to an attic early on and he stays in there for most of the film – just observing from the window – watching his wife and daughters go about their days without him.  While doing so, Cranston’s character makes observations, predicts what’s going through their heads and even occasionally breaks the third wall to make a comment to the audience or to ask us a compelling question.

It may sound boring to some but trust me when I say that it’s far from it. With any other actor, the film might not work but thankfully Cranston has just so much charisma that it works and extremely well too.  The film offers some thought provoking material that really engages.  It’s some deep stuff and at times it’s really poetic too.  It’s a fascinating character study to say the least. Even by the film’s end, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about the character of Howard nor his actions but it left me thinking for sure and that shows that it’s a good film.

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Moving on, this film is really clever with it’s narrative – and it’s often even a darkly funny film too which results in an interesting mix.  It does run a little long for a film that’s based off of a short story at 106 minutes in total but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t interested to see what the outcome of this bizarre situation would be.  As someone who didn’t read the source material going in, I had a lot of fun guessing what Cranston’s character would eventually do and after looking up the source material up online, I suggest for other viewers to do the same.  Reading that said source material beforehand will take some of the fun out of the film as the guessing and the feeling of ‘anything can happen’ are then missing.

Now, as for final praise-worthy aspects – I must give a shout-out to Cinematographer: Andrei Bowden-Schwartz and Composer: Aaron Zigman who are responsible for crafting some of the film’s more emotional moments. The film is certainly well-shot and the score – particularly the theme of the film is very well done as well.  We get impressive work from both.

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In Conclusion/My Verdict: 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars -

“Wakefield” is extremely well written, acted and directed and while it isn’t as GREAT as I was hoping for it to be there’s no denying that it’s still a really solid drama and as such, this film serves as some strong counter programming for those who are looking for some more mature, adult fare this Summer.  It dives deep – asking it’s audience some key questions about our own lives and what we would do in a similar situation and it’s often a very poetic film as such.

At 1 hour and 46 minutes, it does sometimes overstay it’s welcome but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t engaged right till the very final shot.

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If this review or the film’s trailer itself has spiked your interest – then I highly recommend you giving it a chance. Bryan Cranston is great as always and the film itself offers some very thought provoking material throughout it’s run-time.  It’s not the type of film that you’re going to want to re-watch anytime soon but it is deserving of at least one viewing if you find yourself seeking a more mature drama over the Summer.

If you’re Looking For It though: I may have some bad news depending on your location: This film is currently not available anywhere in Canada at this time and is only available on select screens in the US.  I don’t have a list unfortunately but you can check out https://gowatchit.com/watch/movies/wakefield-562582 to see if you can catch a screening nearby!  Likewise some US cable providers have made the film available for rentals so that may be an option for some of you too!

For those who are having trouble finding it right now though, worry not, because the film will be available on Blu-Ray, DVD and On Demand on August 1! and you can pre-order a copy of the Combo Pack here: https://www.amazon.com/Wakefield-Bluray-DVD-Combo-Blu-ray/dp/B072BRQGT5/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

And finally, here’s the Trailer if anyone wants to take a look!

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