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Originally published Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 3:03 PM

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‘Wish You Were Here’: a frustrating vacation puzzle

A movie review of “Wish You Were Here,” an Australian mystery-thriller dominated by Joel Edgerton’s fearless performance as a compromised married man.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2.5 stars

‘Wish You Were Here,’ with Joel Edgerton, Antony Starr, Felicity Price, Teresa Palmer. Directed by Kieran Darcy-Smith, from a screenplay by Darcy-Smith and Price. 89 minutes. Rated R for language, some drug content, brief sexuality, violence. Varsity.

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This jittery Australian mystery-thriller is built around the panicky guilt of a middle-aged married man named Dave.

Fearlessly played by Joel Edgerton, who brings a surprising amount of variety and vulnerability to the role, Dave is in emotional overdrive. He’s haunted by flashbacks and/or memories of what happened during an Ecstasy-fueled vacation in Cambodia.

Did he sleep with his pregnant wife’s sister? What happened to a member of their party (Antony Starr) who disappeared? What does Starr’s character mean to convey when he makes a business speech about supply and demand? Is there an unknown factor that isn’t immediately apparent?

Best-known for his sharp work in “The Great Gatsby” (as Tom Buchanan) and “Animal Kingdom,” Edgerton dominates the film with a performance based on anguished uncertainty. Like the audience, which is gradually given just enough dots to connect, he’s frustrated by what he doesn’t know.

The co-writer and first-time director, Kieran Darcy-Smith, teases with what he won’t reveal, surrounding Dave with subliminal hints that fail to add up to a satisfying story. A shark makes a brief appearance, jungle creatures turn up as entertainment, and we’re reminded of the draconian nature of the local drug laws.

“Wish You Were Here” is also the title of a fondly remembered 1987 British coming-of-age movie that almost made a star of Emily Lloyd. At its most exasperating, the new film may have you wishing you were there, watching the old one.

John Hartl:

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