Spurred by the death of a once close friend, Michelle (Liz Noth) has returned to her suburban hometown for the first time in years. She can’t bring herself to attend the reception, for fear of being confronted by her friend’s mother, opting instead for a classmate’s after-party.
The party functions as an off-kilter high school reunion. Because if it wasn’t awkward enough to see all the people who used to be your world, why not throw death into a mix? Having blended the discomfort of two unpleasant scenarios, the writers were wise to infuse the plot with comedy to prevent the experience from becoming overwhelmingly painful.
Initially, I found it odd that Michelle’s high school friends (played by writer, Jake Smith, and director, Darin Guerrasio) seemed so…well, friendly after saying they hadn’t seen her in seven years, but I suppose I understand. I haven’t seen some of my closest friends from that time in over a decade and if I ran into them at the grocery store I wouldn’t hesistate to give them the best hug they’ve ever had. It’s not that I stopped caring, life just got in the way. We went in different directions and nothing has brought us together again.
The last time I saw any of my friends from high school was at our 10 year reunion, and I almost wish I hadn’t gone. The people you miss the most want nothing to do with you, and those you can barely recall meeting need you to watch their drunk dates.
Wake perfectly captures that feeling of having lost more chances than you ever realized you wanted and having changed too much to ever return a place you never thought you’d want to be.
The multitude of incidental side characters left me with a bit of difficulty following certain aspects of the plot and a few unanswered questions about how they all knew one another. This is understandable as the multi-level interconnectedness of small-town relationships is difficult to foster within such a brief timespan, especially without resorting to obvious dialogue outlining it. If she knows who your sister is, it’s absurd to remind her for the sake of audience understanding.
Some of the dialogue is a bit awkward, though not unnatural, which works well in a comedy. The cringe-worthy moments feel intentional. Let’s face it, confronting the reality of who you were at 17 is bound to make anyone uncomfortable.
One of the problems I commonly find with the acting in indie shorts is the tendency to be almost theatrical, playing to the back of a house that’s much smaller than they realize. There are no noticeable cases of that here. Even the marginally caricaturistic characters were kept within the realm of plausibility.
My biggest issue with this film, if I have to nitpick, is that it almost looks a little too good. A few shots were, in my opinion, stylistically inconsistent with the overall feel. I found that slightly distracting but I’m also quite particular so most viewers probably wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest. In fact, they’d most likely appreciate that it is adequately and consistently lit and the correct things are in focus.
If there’s a moral to carry with you following Wake, it’s that death forces us to confront what is important, who is important. It reminds us of the finiteness of our days and those of the people we love. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, and if someone really loves you there is little that can’t be forgiven.
Wake can be viewed in full on Vimeo