Wakefield – A Thought-Provoking, Poetic Drama (Guest Review)

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.

Synopsis: What would your life look like without you in it? Outwardly, Howard Wakefield is the picture of success. He has a loving wife 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)

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner, and Beverly D’Angelo

Writer: Robin Swicord

Director:  Robin Swicord

Rating: R

Running Time: 106mins

Trailer: 

Wakefield is a 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 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 Cranston’s Tour De Force performance more than makes up for this as 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 this was far from it. With any other actor, the film might not work but thankfully Cranston has so much charisma that this worked extremely well.  The film also offers some other thought provoking material that really engages.  The film is such a fascinating character study that by the film’s end, it leaves you feeling unsure and thinking about the character of Howard and his actions and that shows that it’s a good film.

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This film is really clever with its narrative – adding some dark comedy for an interesting mix.  It does however run a little long for a film that’s based off of a short story at 106 minutes. As someone who didn’t read the source material going in, the story and the character of Howard for that matter were fun to follow. As is with most films adapted from novels, reading 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 – kudos 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 are both very well done.  We definitely get impressive work from both.

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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 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 its 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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