Howard Wakefield, a New York City lawyer, hides out in the attic of his home for weeks, coming out in the daytime when his family is gone to shower and eat. His withdrawal leads him to examine his life, and he rationalizes that he has not abandoned his family because he is still in the house.
When a former boyfriend re-enters his wife’s life, he realizes that he may not be able to return to life he has abandoned.
“Caryn” (Hooliguest) – There is something to be said for a film that feels chilling from the first scene, where you know something is going to wrong and you should be on your guard, and that is the air that Wakefield gave me once the film had begun.
The film tells the story of Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) who seems it have it all – a successful career, a beautiful wife and two daughters, and a lovely home – but then he just seems to disappear. After a nervous breakdown he leaves his family and moves into the attic above their garage for a couple months, and survives by scavenging for food at night, while he watches the lives of his wife (Jennifer Garner), children and neighbours. But everything changes once his wife’s ex-boyfriend comes back into the picture…..
It’s very difficult not to admit that Bryan Cranston is one of the greatest talents in the film industry right now, he is versatile and he is able to embody any role that he plays. He is definitely hard working and has come a long way since playing Malcolm’s dad in Malcolm in the Middle. Wakefield is told entirely from Howard’s point of view and he is in almost all the scenes, so one would need a powerful actor that will demand attention in all the scenes – and Cranston absolutely does that.
Perhaps the strongest draw of the entire film is Cranston’s performance – whether it’s as a charming husband, a villainous rival, an unhinged loiterer – he puts his all in the role and it pays off. He makes you believe the story he tells, you understand why he wants to wife, his family and himself. You sympathise with him and feel yourself roped into his story as he tells it, without taking a minute to think back at what the consequences of his actions are.
Howard Wakefield is almost reminiscent of Amy Dunne in Gone Girl in that his methods are drastic, and the narrative does not paint him as a hero, but it is tactic done to garner attention for themselves from their partner. Howard started pursuing Diana, his wife, after she was already dating his friend, Dirk and it became a sort of competition between him and Dirk and after manipulating the situation, Howard ended up with Diana. This is told through a series of flashbacks, and you learn that maybe Diana is the true victim in this situation. Howard is an antihero but he has none of the empowering and redeeming qualities of Amy Dunne, or the smarts. The pales in comparison and as the film develops you find yourself even more repulsed by Howard then you were when you first introduced to him.
Robin Swicord, the writer/director, adapted the film from the short story ‘Wakefield’ by E. L. Doctorow, which is itself a modern day update of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story of the same. Swicord has a long list of experience of adapting words for the screen from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to Memoirs of a Geisha to Little Women and it shows. But sometimes it feels as if the narrative gets lost in it’s own story. The solo narrative of Howard is already a risky move, and added to that the length of the vignettes of his story, makes it almost tedious. There were moments when I was craving to hear the stories of the other characters, just to get a break from Howard. Is that how the characters felt around him?
The interesting part of the film is how it is told, it snips between current day events to flashbacks to imagined situations in Howard’s head. It feels almost as erratic as Howard’s mental state. And it helps to tell his story and the changes he needed to make in order to truly to divorce himself from the person that he had become. It was like a procedure come to life, and intriguing to watch.
The film compelling in the way it tells the story, and leaves a lot open to interpretation. It is a study in human behaviour and constantly keeps you guessing. And I can promise, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Rating: 7/10
Sounds like an intriguing new work from Bryan Cranston, let us know what you thought.