Wish You Were Here is a small independent film that shouldn’t get confused with the Joel Edgerton thriller from last year or the upcoming Zach Braff film taking Kickstarter by storm. This Wish You Were Here is about two brothers who encounter a woman on the run during their cross-country roadtrip, which ends up being a significant journey for all three. The score was written by Jordan Shapiro and the album is titled Americana because the heart of the film is exactly that. This isn’t Copland or the Americana you traditionally think of such as in John Williams’ Lincoln or Mark Isham’s 42. This is a guitar based score that lacks a presence but somewhat works on the small level it establishes for itself.
I never like to mention budget or use that as an excuse but the film clearly is an extremely low budget venture. The score reflects that as it is very simple and almost entirely guitar based with a few added textures. Original songs are sprinkled in the score and have a country feel. The one thing the music does well is establish mood. The quiet strumming or pings of the guitar string immediately conjure images of a sun-soaked landscape that reflects a golden hue with the sound of wind and buzzing insects in the ambience. When conflict arises in the story the music becomes more dissonant with a lot of electronic tones. This is probably where the music is least effective as the tones don’t do much to support the narrative or characters. Again, this is a score of moods and tones, and it’s trying to paint that with the dissonance. But for me I’ve always seen quiet dissonance as a way for the music to fade into the background which doesn’t give it the presence it needs. Structurally the music doesn’t progress as much as it should. I felt as if the starting point and ending point were very close together. We never strayed far away from the starting point so it never felt like we went on a journey to come full circle or move away to a new point. The characters are going on a huge physical and emotional journey and I didn’t pick that up through the music.
The score for Wish You Were Here is good in the sense that it establishes an idea and a state of mind, but that’s really all that it does. The score trickles along at a snail’s pace and when electronic dissonance is introduced it doesn’t do much. I wouldn’t be surprised if the scoring process was just sitting in front of the film and improvising it. There is a hint of structure but since the style is so spacey the music doesn’t have a chance to build any emotions or character nuances. The short 41-minute runtime makes it accessible and worth a listen, but the music isn’t as nuanced and deep as it likes to believe it is.
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