Writer-director Joston Theney’s Wanton Want is a bit slow to start. Struggling author Douglas (Nicholas Brendon) and his wife, Veronica (Jackie Moore), are going to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. Joining the couple is his good friend Dan (Phillip Andre Botello) and Pia (Shoshana Wilder), his wife. For a while, it appears the dramatic thriller is just a slice of life as viewers watch these characters catch up and/or get to know one another.
However, Douglas is not mentally well, and his mind is running through several scenarios. He becomes convinced that his wife and his best friend had an affair, and the more he tries not to dwell on that thought, the more it becomes an all-consuming obsession. However, Pia seems to understand his pain and trauma and offers a fresh perspective. This makes things even murkier and confusing for the writer. Is his wife cheating on him, or is it just a paranoid delusion? Is Pia truly that sympathetic or simply playing nice for someone she just met?
The thing about the story’s slow start is that it proves necessary for the ending of Wanton Want to work. The time and care that the filmmaker puts into letting the audience understand these characters’ perspectives make the astonishing ending as impactful as it is. While Douglas is the lead, the script gives Dan, Veronica, and Pia a time to shine, and their actions always make perfect sense.
“Is his wife cheating on him, or is it just a paranoid delusion?”
Helping matters along is David Gordon’s cinematography and the editing by Michael Tang. They work in tandem to ensure that the visual composition of each scene is right for that particular tone. So before Douglas seems to go off the deep end, things look rather mundane; simple lighting, basic camera set-ups, etc. This normality reflects the characters and how they are attempting to keep that veneer up. Then, when things become increasingly more disorientating, the editing is more frenzied, the lighting and shot composition more vibrant and erratic. Visually, the film perfectly represents Duglas’ state of mind throughout its 92-minute runtime.
Of course, if the cast members weren’t up to snuff, then all that other effort put into Wanton Want would be for nothing. Brendon seems to truly understand Douglas on a deep level, bringing the right balance of charm and frustration to a role those watching might root against. But, because he’s empathetic and the character’s attempts to clear his head come across as genuine, they never do. Moore doesn’t have as much to do, but she’s fun, and her chemistry with Brendon is excellent.
Botello’s Dan is kind of unlikable at first. He’s fast-talking, telling rather annoying, though amusing stories, seemingly always “on.” Admittedly, watching the actor playing someone who isn’t particularly sweet or good-humored initially threw me off. However, the role allows him to showcase his range perfectly, and the further along the plot gets, the more likable he becomes. Wilder walks on the screen and immediately captures one’s attention. Partially this is due to the writing of the character, but if the actor were unable to bring that vivaciousness to life, then much of the film wouldn’t work.
Wanton Want might bore some for the first 20 or 30 minutes. However, once the narrative gets underway, thanks to the brilliant acting, perfect visual style, and stunning writing, the film absolutely works. Add in the perfect ending, and one gets a dramatic thriller that is more than worth seeking out as soon as possible.
"…Brendon seems to truly understand Douglas on a deep level..."