It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
When a film opens with a downward swooping shot of Jesus on the cross that ends with a funeral attendee solemnly kissing his feet, chances are it won’t be a laugh-a-minute good time. Somber and sorrowful, “The Wait” proceeds from there like a gorgeous processional that is full of meaningful silences but stubbornly avoids supplying many answers. Occasionally, a ray or two of sunshine seeps in but quickly withdraws when the hard-to-forget truth cannot be ignored.
Perhaps that is as it should be when the topic at hand is grief. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds since the beginning of 2016 have been rife with shared public farewells and eulogies to great artists ranging from David Bowie and Prince to Garry Shandling and Merle Haggard. Not that those expressions aren’t sincere or heartfelt. But it takes a special kind of courage to fully process such a loss on a deeply private scale, especially concerning the untimely death of one’s child. “The Wait” challenges you to stand in judgment while also acknowledging that there is no right or wrong way to cope with such a painful personal tragedy, even if others might get hurt.
The deceased in question is Giuseppe, the son of Juliette Binoche’s Anna, a divorcee whose roomy and remote Sicilian villa supplies the setting for what will soon become a two-woman show. Initially, the windows and mirrors are shrouded in black cloth and the barely lit rooms are filled with silent, mournful visitors. But the downcast mood is broken by the entrance of a stranger: Giuseppe’s pretty girlfriend Jeanne (Lou de Laâge as the very definition of a French ingénue, one whose self-absorbed naiveté is as obvious as her voluptuousness of her red-velvet lips).
Invited to visit over the upcoming Easter holiday by Giuseppe, Jeanne arrives from Paris with no clue that her lover is deceased and therefore speaks of him as if he were still very much alive. Instead of filling her in, Anna lies and says it is her brother who has passed away. She realizes the young girl’s presence is a way to resurrect her son’s spirit, however briefly. That includes listening to the messages that the confused Jeanne continues to leave on the missing Giuseppe’s cell phone, which happens to now be in Anna’s possession. These two very different women have but one thing in common: His absence. But together they can at least summon him in some form.