Matthew Goodhue makes his feature-length debut as a writer and director with the mystery-thriller Woe. The filmmaker aims for character-driven action to slowly build the suspense until everything comes to a head. Is he successful, or will the audience be left wanting?
Betty (Jessie Rabideau) and Charlie’s (Adam Halferty) father died a year ago. While it has been hard on them, Betty is moving on with life as best as possible. Her impending nuptials to park ranger Benny (Ryan Kattner) and preparing for their future together is what consumes most of her time. Charlie has withdrawn from society. All he does is work on the house (possibly their childhood home, but that is never made clear), ignoring everyone else. He even goes so far as to choose not to attend his sister’s wedding.
But, one night, after avoiding Betty and Benny, Charlie sees a shadowy figure in the hall and learns of a terrible secret his dad held. This secret threatens to pull his life, and that of his sister’s, apart at the seams. Can the siblings find a way out of this scenario forced upon them, or will they die trying?
“…after avoiding Betty and Benny, Charlie…learns of a terrible secret his dad held.”
Woe is so lethargically paced that it might just be the cure for insomnia the world needs. It is one thing to reveal things in an intentionally measured way, that is how intrigue is built. It is something else altogether to have seemingly random sequences where not a lot happens, such as Benny looking for his harmonica over breakfast. Yes, this is where Betty initiates talks about selling her father’s classic (?) car, but since that never comes to any fruition, aside from an equally pointless scene where Charlie sees Betty turn down a potential buyer, it is the very definition of filler.
To be fair, these two scenes might be meant to underscore the tension and animosity between brother and sister. But, if they do feel anger or frustration with the other, it is never explained why and it never factors into their decisions. Or if it does, it is not made clear enough that is why either character is doing something. Oh, and that shadowy figure Charlie sees… yeah, don’t expect that to factor into the story beyond that one sighting.
Maybe the dangling plot threads and confusing character relationships (why is Benny trying so hard to help Charlie when his sister barely speaks to him?) could be overlooked if the cast of Woe were up to the challenge. Sadly, they are not. No actor is able to make audiences resonate with their characters, as they are just as listless as the plot. Halferty makes Charlie’s quirks feel forced and manic, while Rabideau is so meek she almost becomes invisible. Kattner at least seems to be trying as the optimistic, upbeat ranger, but he never nails down the more terse moments. To be fair, the actors had nothing to work with because of how poorly these people are written, so let’s not judge them too harshly.
Woe does not work. Goodhue fails to sustain tension or atmosphere, so the audience does not care about whatever horrific mystery is playing out. The characters are ill-defined, and their relationships feel forced as if one should automatically care that siblings aren’t talking because they are family. The cast is poorly suited to their roles, often coming across as stiff or awkward.
"…Kattner at least seems to be trying..."