Tom and Ingrid, an elderly man and woman, meet up at an art museum and then wander about. It’s their first date, and their conversation is filled with the sharing of interests and ideas… and those first “butterfly” moments of mutual romantic attraction. But as the date proceeds, the pair unravel a deeper, connection between them — one filled with a surprising heartache.
This gentle, resonant drama — directed by Kieran Thompson and written by Chris Heck — initially begins as a romance, with a situation familiar to many films of that genre. Like many other first dates on film, conflicting micro-emotions flicker between Tom and Ingrid: hesitancy, interest, shyness, discovery and delight. Part of the pleasure for viewers is watching the connection between characters grow with each narrative and character beat. With skilled writing, acting and directing — all of which is abundant here — the audience begins to root for this potential couple as their own familiarity with the characters grows, too. In many of the best romances, viewers will fall in love with the characters, as they fall in love with one another.
Actors Christine Kellogg-Darrin and Elester Latham bring Ingrid and Tom to life, with rich, empathetic performances with an innate sympathy. There’s an instant kindness and warmth between them that perfectly illustrates that much-fabled feeling of knowing someone well, even if you’ve just met. And that’s what seems to be happening initially between them as the film proceeds.
But there’s just something slightly different about this particular romance, beyond its focus on an older couple in a genre that’s often geared to the young. The craftsmanship has an unusual thoughtfulness and meditative quality, privileging care and stillness over-energetic pacing or plot-driven momentum. The lovely but muted color palette imbues the images with a luminosity, but they possess an undertow of melancholy, thanks to the steady, almost searching camera movement and framing.
The action in the script is romance; the film language, though, feels like an elegiac drama. And ultimately, as the story quietly unfurls just why Tom and Ingrid seem so deeply connected to one another, its visual approach of tender, poetic care aligns with the full meaning of the narrative.
Heartfelt and impeccably crafted, “Wish You Were There” captures the initial flutters of first-blush romance, no matter what the age of the people, with a genuine sweetness and pleasure. But it also captures the profound empathy and patience that a true long-term partnership requires. Ultimately, in the end, “Wish You Were There” becomes not just a romance, but a genuine, moving love story: a portrait of the steadfast devotion and tenderness that make for true, lasting love, no matter what the circumstances.