The characters in the indie drama “The Wait” do exactly that – they wait.
They wait for things to happen, staring off at something we can’t see. They stand outside peering into windows in that creepy way people do in horror films before they attack. They wait to see how far the destruction of a raging wildfire will spread as they play golf or swim at the nearby resort. They wait for their lives to change but do nothing to make it happen.
Most of all, two sisters wait for their recently deceased mother to be resurrected – or not.
The viewer waits, too. We wait for the intriguing images by artful young director M. Blash – glittering water, burning embers, empty eyes – to meld into a coherent visual statement. We wait for characters to answer questions they are asked onscreen. We wait for someone in the film to be a functioning adult. But it doesn’t happen.
The film, which opens Friday for a limited run in the Screening Room Cinema Cafe, starts with Angela (Jena Malone) preparing her mother’s body to be picked up by morticians. Her sister, Emma (Chloe Sevigny), is nervously puttering about in that grief-stricken way. We don’t see their mother, only small snippets of a shoulder or hand. It’s a scene of quiet reverence.
The phone rings. Emma answers. The mysterious caller knows her mother is dead. “Things always happen for a reason, don’t you agree?” the voice asks. “Hold tight. ... They will return. Have a good life now.”
“OK,” the dazed Emma replies.
Most people would laugh it off, but not Emma, who we quickly realize is a bit off-kilter. Is it from her grief, or is she always that way?
Emma pleads with her sister to wait a few days for her mother’s resurrection. She moves her mother to the bedroom floor, covers her and lowers the air conditioner to preserve the body. When Angela finally does call the funeral home, Emma violently drags her into a bedroom, telling people at the door her mother is still alive. Yeah, maybe this isn’t grief talking.
It helps that Sevingy has a vacant, otherworldly look about her that accentuates her hazy mental state. She closes the doors and windows (“You know what they say about souls escaping through the window”) and plans a back-from-the-dead party with drinks, snacks, a “best grandma ever” banner and balloons.
Her younger teen brother, who is dealing with his own issues, including his sexuality, tells her to “call me when it’s safe to come home” and goes off into the forest, visiting his best friend’s house and spying on the pretty girl at the pool.
And Angela? She does nothing but wait. She waits until it works itself out; waits until she finds her possible salvation in the company of a hunky young neighbor (Luke Grimes) whose motives aren’t clear, either.
All the while, mom’s dead body lays eerily on the floor leaving us on edge waiting for a horror film to break out. Or perhaps a story of miracles and redemption.
We just don’t know, and Blash seems to revel in positing this mystery. He easily makes “The Wait” unsettling in both his visuals and scripts with scenes like a little girl kicking her grandmother’s shrouded body that horrifies us, yet makes us curious – and terrified – that the corpse will move. And his reveal on who made that phone call is a stunner, but it’s disappointingly left there to hang.
With all of our waiting around, we deserved a payoff, and that never materializes.
2½ stars (Out of four)
Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Jena Malone, Luke Grimes
Director: M. Blash
Running time: 96 minutes
Rating: R for language, adult themes and sexual situations.
The Lowdown: Two sisters await their recently deceased mother’s resurrection following a mysterious phone call.