The Wait

Scott Wallace
27th Jun 2016

The grieving process is examined in this unconventional drama, the feature directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Piero Messina. The confidently made film is languid and hypnotic, with a slow, thoughtful pace drawn forward by strong emotional undercurrents. 

The Wait stars French superstar Juliette Binoche as Anna, a French woman living in the enormous Sicilian villa that she once shared with her husband. She is cloaked in grief after a tragic loss, unable to even look at herself in the mirror, until she receives an odd phone call. Jeanne (Lou de Laâge) arrives from Paris unaware of the grief that Anna is unable to face, and hoodwinked by the older woman she gives in to the idyll of the film's beautiful setting.

One of the most immediately striking things about the film are the visuals by cinematographer Francesco Di Giacomo. The film expertly plays with light and shadow, as well as brilliant framing that maroons actors in enormous expanses. The visuals create a sense of loneliness and entrapment that follows through to the film's quietly simmering plot.

Both of the leads, Binoche and de Laâge are brilliant, and perfectly tap into the two characters' emotions. There is a subtle and complex camaraderie between the two women that helps to make the film as thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking as the balance of understanding shifts between them. Giorgio Colangeli also turns in excellent work as the conflicted, melancholic manservant Pietro.

Messina, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Giacomo Bendotti, Ilaria Macchia, and Andrea Paolo Massara, is very confident given that this is his first feature. Perhaps there is a certain overconfidence and even self-consciousness to his delivery. The film's conclusion in particular seems more invested in attempting to trick the audience than actually be emotionally open and honest.

Overall, though, The Wait is clearly made by a director with a steady hand and an original voice. It's rare to find a film exploring such universal themes without ever resorting to cliche or clumsy sentimentality. Despite its few shortcomings, its slow unfolding and emotional eloquence is simply wondrous to behold. 

The Wait opens exclusive to Palace Cinemas on Thursday June 30th.