Movie Review: Bryan Cranston In Wakefield

Bryan Cranston delivers another strong performance in intriguing drama

Wakefield which was released on DVD July 31 having arrived on digital platforms on July 28.

In writer-director

Robin Swicord’s intriguing drama Wakefield, the often brilliant

Bryan Cranston plays Howard Wakefield, a successful suburbanite who decides to break away from domesticity and voluntarily disappear. From his hideaway in the attic of his carriage house garage he observes life; the lives of his wife, children and neighbours as they try to come to terms with his absence.

It’s a calm, collected and meditative film with some attractive stylish flourishes such as when Howard breaks the third wall and addresses the audiences directly. He considers the lives of those we watches, predicting their actions, opining on their motivation and feelings.

It’s all about Cranston as his narration takes centre stage with Swicord observing identity and relationships. There’s plenty of time given to his thoughts on marriage and love, the control freak mentality coming through his manipulation of his wife. The Jane Austen Book Club director saw Wakefield earn plenty of praise when it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and it’s easy to see why.

The film is based on the short story by

E.L. Doctorow and features some strong performances backing up Cranston’s brilliant turn. But it’s

cleverly constructed, despite its simple, short-form roots, making use of dark humour and some wonderful photography from

Andrei Bowden-Schwartz.

However, it is somewhat limited, and its themes, while relevant and compelling for a period of time, run out of steam. Cranston’s strong performance maintains the attention but you might be considering your watch as the film enters its second hour.

Wakefield is a fascinating character study at times; it looks fantastic and Cranston is compelling throughout. But despite its good points, it does feel like a short film seeking to fatten itself to feature length. Wakefield’s inherent detachment seeps from the screen into us as an audience which feels oddly off-putting. And as good as Cranston is, there’s very little to like in him.

But the premise is still captivating. I couldn’t help but feel I was watching something with an interesting set-up with some good ideas. What’s striking is how, conventionally speaking, Wakefield’s life is happy, successful and settled, and yet he wants to break away from it. But I do wonder if it works better on the page rather than the screen.

Wakefield starring Bryan Cranston was released on DVD in the UK on July 31 following a digital platform release three days earlier.

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