Bob Dylan's soul-stirring epic, Tangled Up in Blue, features prominently during the opening of Scrubs stalwart Zach Braff's latest comedy-drama, Wish I Was Here.
It's highly appropriate given the title of that angst-ridden dirge perfectly sums up the mindset of central character Aidan (Braff) during the early scene-setting. Talk about reasons to be uncheerful.
He's married to Sarah (a rarely better Kate Hudson) and living in sun-kissed LA with their two adorable kids but metaphorical storm clouds are gathering. He's just got the news his father is terminally ill, his last acting job in a "dandruff commercial" is disappearing into the distant memory and he can no longer afford his children's private tuition at the local synagogue. And then there's the anxiety that comes from having a "genius" brother.
A couple of sub-plots maintain momentum but the major narrative energy comes from Aidan's attempts to find an antidote for the existential angst precipitated by the imminent death of his father. He still auditions for acting jobs and manages to maintain relationships with his family but to quote that line from Beckett's Endgame, "something is taking its course," and it needs to be understood if he's to maintain a handle on the decibel levels of his quiet desperation.
Hollywood's attempts to fill the void with celluloid are typically slight and insubstantial affairs but this touching and poignant work marks writer/director Braff out as one to watch. Having shown us he's comfortable with comedy in the likes of Scrubs he takes aim here at both the funny and profound and can be said to have scored a direct hit with this affecting piece. Thematically comparable to his previous work, Garden State, this is a much more assured and substantial work. Kierkegaard it ain't and the smug will scoff but leave your cynicism at the door and you'll find it surprisingly easy to be drawn into the gravitational pull of these characters' search for metaphysical meaning in their lives.
Quiet desperation has never been so easy on the eye. And thanks to a cracking if sometimes sappy soundtrack, the ear.