Dawn (Claire Foy) and David (Benedict Cumberbatch) are a newly married couple who have moved back to David’s hometown. Keen to have a baby and busy renovating their dreamhouse their lives are interrupted by the arrival of David’s brother Nick (Shaun Evans) a soldier on leave suffering from post traumatic stress. Dawn finds herself inexplicably drawn to Nick but as she learns more about the demons that torment him she begins to realise that she may not truly know her husband at all…
Written and directed by newcomer Dictynna Hood, Wreckers is an unsettling, compelling film which delights in confounding your expectations at every turn.
Our gateway to the story is Dawn (Claire Foy, luminous throughout) and we see events unfold through her eyes. Sweet and very much in love with her husband she yearns for the every day dream – a nice house, a baby of her own. Dawn is drawn to Nick. She finds his antics amusing (giggling at his sleepwalking, enthusiastically joining in in a spot of cross dressing and karaoke down the local pub) and her kind hearted nature means she is troubled by his distress at the demons that haunt him. But as Nick’s presence in her life causes some unpalatable truths about her husband to emerge something altogether more steely is awakened in her. As Dawn Claire Foy is highly personable giving a very natural performance which grounds the film. We share in her confusion at the events that surround her and she keeps the audience on side even when making some truly terrible decisions.
Benedict Cumberbatch is both utterly engaging and deeply disquieting as David. Outwardly sweet and charming Cumberbatch manages to convey the maelstrom of emotions simmering underneath David’s seemingly placid surface with nothing more than a glance. We see him seething quietly in the background of several key scenes almost swallowed by the undergrowth (the countryside itself almost seems to be a key character in the film hemming the characters in and seeming almost to be complicit in the web of deception that the main characters get entangled in). And when his emotions do inevitably erupt the audience is left shocked at the violence of it. It’s a completely captivating performance.
Shaun Evans is equally compelling and highly affecting as Nick. Nick is entertaining and brash (the scene in which he acts as the world’s worst tour guide cheerily regaling Dawn with horror stories of the town’s inhabitants is a highlight) and yet achingly vulnerable. His flashbacks are truly upsetting to watch and you share Dawn’s distress as the musings of an old school teacher and the casual cruelty of the brothers’ childhood friend Gary (Peter McDonald) speaks to a history of terrible abuse. The relationship between the two brothers is beautifully portrayed by Cumberbatch and Evans. Incredibly nuanced and with pitch black, deeply unsettling undertones it is the driving force of the piece and the actors ensure that it never devolves into melodrama.
All three characters are engaging and refreshingly none are portrayed as wholly good or bad. There are no simplistic archetypes here. You find your sympathies divided – Dawn is sweet, personable and kind and yet surprisingly callous to David in a key scene and she makes some truly terrible decisions. David is charming, kind, loyal, wronged, emasculated, tormented and rather unnerving all at the same time. And while your heart goes out to the child-like Nick the audience also knows that no good will come from his presence in his brother’s life.
Wreckers is strongly directed by newcomer Dictynna Hood. The film has a woozy, dreamlike quality to it. It evokes the feeling of the last days of summer – just before Autumn arrives and everything changes. The use of light and shadow is excellent, early frames are drenched in light (Foy is practically radiant in some scenes) but as the narrative unfolds the shadows draw in. The soundtrack also manages to be jaunty and jarring at the same time. Hood draws strong performances from her cast – it’s a hugely impressive debut.
Wreckers is intelligent filmmaking which doesn’t seek to spoonfeed its audience. It is left to the audience to decide for themselves what happened. There are no easy answers for them here.
Wreckers is a haunting, compelling tale of secrets and lies, anchored by superb performances from it’s central trio of rising British stars.