‘The Wheel’ spins the story of a trip that could make or break a marriage
Like a B&B ‘Virginia Woolf,’ the film from ‘High Fidelity’ writer Steve Pink delivers intense drama that commands attention.
Last week we had “Gone in the Night,” with Winona Ryder and John Gallagher Jr. as a couple who book a remote cabin in the woods only to find it’s already been booked, and soon we’re getting “Alone Together,” with Katie Holmes and Jim Sturgess as strangers who are double-booked into an Airbnb. Sandwiched between them we have “The Wheel,” with Amber Midthunder and Taylor Gray as a couple who spend the weekend at a rental cabin in the San Bernardino forest, and I’m hoping we’ll eventually get “Alone Together and Gone in the Night with the Wheel,” but in the meantime we should mention that “The Wheel” in question is a Ferris Wheel and it’s the setting for the very last moments in this film — moments that are so real and raw and truthful it’s almost painful to watch, and yet you gotta stick with it because …
Well. You’ll see.
Midthunder’s Albee and Gray’s Walker are each just 24 years old, but they’ve been married for eight years and to say it’s not working out is an understatement. Albee reluctantly agrees to go along with Walker’s plan to spend the weekend at an isolated cabin in a last-ditch attempt to save their relationship, using a book titled “Seven Questions to Save Your Marriage” as a guideline. As their Jeep pulls into the property in the dead of night, Albee deadpans, “Is this where you come to murder me?” and then spots their host standing on the porch and says, “Who’s that creature? It’s Daphne from ‘Scooby Doo.’ ”
Quiver Distribution presents a film directed by Steve Pink and written by Trent Atkinson. No MPAA rating. Running time: 83 minutes. Available now on demand.
This is Albee. Filled with snarky asides and protected by a seemingly impenetrable shield that allows no authentic feelings in or out. Walker, on the other hand, is still clearly in love with Albee and is desperate to stay with her, even though Albee herself says she’s cruel and doesn’t understand why he wants to stick around.
Then there’s the aforementioned “Daphne from ‘Scooby Doo,’ ” who’s actually named Carly (Bethany Anne Lind) and is the owner of the rental cabin (and the nearby main house) and is a kind and caring soul. Carly’s on the brink of getting married to Ben (Nelson Lee), a handsome, free-spirited and maybe not totally responsible ex-musician. They’re about a dozen years older than Albee and Walker, and while Ben would just as soon leave the young couple to their fighting, Carly is determined to help them out.
What follows is a kind of bed-and-breakfast “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (hmmm, maybe that explains Albee’s name), with a couple of stunning reveals and more than a few instances in which we believe Albee has been so damaged by her past that not even the sweet and noble Walker can convince her to believe she has the capacity to care for herself, let alone another human being.
The director of “The Wheel” is one Steve Pink, the Evanston Township High School grad who helmed the “Hot Tub Time Machine” movies, so he’s not exactly the first person who would come to mind for something as intense and real as this, but Pink is also the co-writer of the original “High Fidelity,” so he knows a thing or two about bringing fractured relationships to life on the big screen. The four main players are all excellent, with Amber Midthunder delivering particularly outstanding work that shows she is a young actor capable of great things.