While the title refers to a family’s period of soul-searching in the face of its matriarch’s death, audiences will find themselves more predominately concerned with their wait for an actual movie to commence. Things kick off promisingly when a grieving young woman, Emma (Chloë Sevigny), receives an ominous phone call by someone claiming that her recently deceased mother will soon return to Earth. Taking the woman weirdly at face value for knowing little more than her astrological sign, Emma somehow talks her sister, Angela (Jena Malone), into allowing their mother’s corpse to remain in her woodsy cabin residence while they and their assorted children and siblings drift through the surrounding fields chanting, partying, and generally exchanging platitudes that are theoretically charged with submerged existentially sexual longing.
Unfortunately, the film’s nowhere near as kinky or creepy as it may sound. The Wait conjures a kind of pretentious, stupefying, yet oddly earnest dread that’s specific to a great variety of indie movies that probably derive their aesthetic roughly equally from the work of Terrence Malick and Sofia Coppola, as well as films like Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, and even Todd Field’s Little Children, which turned an empathetic novel into a hipster horror show that was predictably disgusted with the majority of the American middle class. The Wait isn’t as off-putting as the latter because the writer-director, M. Blash, displays a wounded sympathy for his rootless characters, but the film never transcends the contrivances of its gimmicky audio-visual “poetry.” This is the kind of movie critics will call a “tone poem” or a “mood piece” in their effort to give the film the benefit of the doubt for making little sense.
The mother may have been the one to recently shuffle off the mortal coil, but no one else in this film appears to be alive either. Everyone seems to be in a trance, walking around as if they were permanently under deep warm water and occasionally spouting gibberish that signifies nothing apart from the filmmakers’ efforts to create a dreamy effect. No character psychology is provided, because Blash misses a key distinction of most of his reference points: Malick, Weir, and Coppola’s films may not be conventionally psychological, but they supply their emotional contexts visually, providing nuances with which the characters themselves are barely cognizant. There are a few haunting images in The Wait, particularly a shot of a cave as the sun pierces through it from above, but Blash doesn’t possess the confidence yet to communicate with his viewers in this primal a fashion. Audiences will most likely feel as if they’ve been locked out of the drama that’s presumably unfolding right in front of them.