Movies: Wreckers

Indie to the point of feeling almost like a student film, Wreckers pushes its minimalist plot forward via very short scenes and a lot of intercutting. We get cobwebs, various POV shots through windows, extreme close-ups, and a stack of hints without ever quite teasing out the truth of the story.


From what I could tell, the film is about David (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dawn Johnson (not to be confused with Don Johnson and played by Claire Foy), relatively newly wed and out for adventure by piling on the stress factors in short order: they move back to the town David grew up in, begin renovating a house, and are also trying to have a baby. Tidbits of information are dropped at intervals, but we eventually come to understand Dawn wants a baby badly enough to insist on fertility testing by lying to the doctors about how long they've been trying. Meanwhile, David appears to have lied about anything and everything in his past—pathological, it seems—and so one must ask why he agrees to move back to his home town if this will surely expose him? But as they say, sometimes people secretly want to be discovered. And the film itself repeats the phrase, "A dog always returns to its shit."

Wreckers is a jumble. David's little brother Nick (Shaun Evans) turns up and Dawn begins, through Nick and others in the town, to piece together a sordid picture of David's upbringing. At some point it becomes clear the abuse David and Nick were subjected to as kids has rooted itself in David; he has moments of aggression that made me wonder whether he should even be a father, lest he also be abusive. This doesn't seem to occur to Dawn, however, even after she finds out David has lied about being sterile. Or has he? Eventually we are forced to question anything he says, never knowing whether he might be telling another whopper.

By the end of the film Nick has disappeared and Dawn is pregnant from a one-off tryst. David tells her he wants the baby, wants her to be happy, but is that true? While the POV of the film is primarily Dawn's, David appears to be the center of the film: he refuses to report that one of his students is cutting herself, he alternately cares for and verbally abuses his brother, he takes random phone calls, and it is discovered (a) as a teenager he pushed his mother down the stairs violently enough to send her to hospital, and (b) may also as a child have knowingly let his rabbit be eaten by the dog, a scenario that is replayed when the hen house is left open and the dog kills one of the chickens. David blames Nick, Nick blames David—who can one trust?

The sum total is David as a would-be protector whose real goal is to control others (probably in response to his inability to control his own abusive father). After all, with the student, David admits to liking that she trusts him; he doesn't want to betray her. But isn't that just another form of control? And I spent the rest of the film wondering about this relationship with his student, whom we never see—in fact, we don't see David at work at all, which is a lost opportunity, I think. But maybe the student was a lie, too. Or maybe the student is the reason for all the phone calls. Unclear. (Dawn is a teacher, too, btw, and we do see her interacting with her students.)

As a psychological study, Wreckers is interesting. What one chooses to believe, the lies we tell ourselves and others, the ways we construct our identities . . . As a film, however . . . It's not awful but requires a lot of work on the part of the viewer (not necessarily a bad thing). There is no right answer, one supposes, but as the film closes on David, Dawn, and their new baby, one has to wonder what kind of family life that's going to be—a wreck?

1 comment:

nyg1954 said...

Just saw this on Amazon.Strange little film.As you say it doesn't look like it's going to be a happy marriage. When they meet Gary at the end David seems to realize that it's not his kid.Dawn cheated because she was mad at David or she was secretly hoping to get pregnant or both. We'll never know.