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The Wheel TIFF Review

★★★★

Directed by: Steve Pink

Written by: Trent Atkinson

Starring: Amber Midhunter, Taylor Gray, Nelson Lee

 


 

Relationship dramas are some of the easiest movies to produce, as all one needs is a bunch of locations (or less) and two actors, with not even much of script being needed sometimes. It is easy to see why Director Steve Pink went in this direction for his next feature after the monumental critical and commercial flop of Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Good on him for doing so, because The Wheel is a mature and heartfelt look at a relationship in crisis.


A couple in their 20’s named Abee (Amber Midhunter) and Walker (Taylor Gray) who have been together since they were children, are currently going through a rough patch. They go on a retreat to the mountains in an attempt to save their relationship, with Walker attempting to use the help of a self-help book and Carly (Bethany Ann Lind) and Ben (Nelson Lee), the owners of the property they are staying at.


The Wheel embraces its dramatic stakes and low budget aesthetic in a way that is admittedly off-putting at first. It takes a while to get used to the rough look and the heavy amount of character dysfunction does make for a hard initial sit. The cinematography does admittedly look rather cheap and though the camerawork is fine, it for the most part never becomes impressive. But this flaw ultimately becomes less of an issue the more the film goes on, thanks mainly due to the writing.


The script is surprisingly clever and nuanced, gradually unfolding and revealing layers about its characters. Abee and Walker are two hardened people who seem to be together just for the sake of the sake of not being alone, being contrasted with Ben and Carly who seem to be doing a lot better. As the film goes on, there is a reversal, and we start to see the love underneath the toxicity and the toxicity underneath the love. It’s a three-dimensional script with no stereotypes.


Acting wise, both Amber Midhunter and Taylor Gray knock it out of the park. They not only totally convince in these henpecked and broken roles but heighten the drama on the page. Midhunter is especially spectacular, given the emotional transition she has to make from start to end. What is also worth mentioning is that these two together, combined with Pink’s direction, create one of the best climaxes I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a long single take that is so simple visually yet probably required so much planning and is so powerfully and perfectly performed that it’ll be a surprise if it doesn’t move you in any way. Whilst Pink’s direction is decent if unspectacular for the most part, that finale was masterfully done.


The Wheel is not an easy sit, but it is rewarding and effecting in equal measures. It’s a big step forward in maturity for Pink as a director and a showcase of fantastic acting for Darkhorse performers Midhunter and Gray. Get ready to be moved.

 

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