What you wish for

What you wish for
Original title:What you wish for
Director:Nicholas Tomnay
Running time:101 minutes
Release date:Not communicated
A chef with a gambling problem flees to a Latin American villa where he assumes the identity of another man.

Mulder's Review

What You Wish For takes audiences on a captivating journey through the contrasting worlds of aspiration, envy, and morality, set against the backdrop of Latin America. The film centers on Ryan Mosely (played impeccably by Nick Stahl), a gambling addict who finds himself drowning in debt and danger, forcing him to escape to a foreign land. In a desperate bid to escape his predicament, Ryan seeks refuge with his old culinary school roommate, Jack (Brian Groh), who has found success as a private chef to the elite.

The film skillfully taps into the current fascination with the culinary world in cinema, joining the ranks of recent food-focused films like The Bear, Boiling Point, and The Menu. Although the narrative shifts beyond the traditional kitchen setting, food remains a central theme. Ryan's culinary skills are not only a means of survival but also a symbolic representation of his journey. From preparing a simple omelette to engaging in a high-stakes risotto challenge with Jack, the film weaves food into its storytelling, catering to both foodies and casual viewers alike.

The title itself hints at the age-old notion that the grass is always greener on the other side. As Ryan steps into Jack's seemingly perfect life, the reality turns out to be far from idyllic. The film effectively explores the concept of stepping into someone else's shoes, highlighting the complexities of understanding another person's circumstances. Jack's struggles become Ryan's burden, and the audience is taken on a rollercoaster ride of tension and fear as Ryan grapples with escalating challenges.

Nick Stahl's portrayal of Ryan is a standout performance, showcasing his versatility as an actor. Stahl effortlessly embodies Ryan's character, shedding any trace of his previous roles. His calm demeanor under pressure adds depth to the character, evoking a sense of intrigue and sympathy from the audience. Ryan's ability to adapt on the fly is not only fascinating but also a testament to Stahl's nuanced performance.

The film's exploration of class dynamics and the allure of a better life is thought-provoking. Ryan's envy of Jack's success highlights the dangers of aspiring to something without fully comprehending the sacrifices that come with it. As the narrative delves into darker territory, the film masterfully balances tension and moments of uneasy humor, thanks in part to Stahl's controlled performance.

At its core, What You Wish For delivers a cautionary tale about the consequences of unchecked ambition and the pursuit of wealth at any cost. As the plot revolves around a high-stakes dinner event, the film echoes themes seen in movies like The Cannibal Club and The Menu, shedding light on the intricate dynamics between hired staff and privileged patrons. The film uses the dinner table as a metaphorical stage to showcase the stark reality of a consumer-driven world where only a select few reap the rewards, while the rest bear the burden.

What You Wish For stands as a compelling exploration of human desires, societal divides, and moral dilemmas. With an enthralling narrative, captivating performances, and a thought-provoking message, the film invites viewers to reflect on their own aspirations and the choices they make in the pursuit of their dreams. Nicholas Tomnay's direction and the standout performances, particularly from Nick Stahl, ensure that the film leaves a lasting impression and leaves viewers pondering the true price of their wishes.

What you wish for
Written and directed by Nicholas Tomnay
Produced by Simon Beltran Echeverri, Kevin Chinoy, Francesca Silvestri, Juan Pablo Solano, Nicholas Tomnay        
Starring  Nick Stahl, Tamsin Topolski, Randy Vasquez, Penelope Mitchell, Juan Carlos Messier, Brian Groh, Ariel Sierra, David Tominaga, Norma Nivia, Megumi Hasebe, Evan Sudarsky, Greg Winter, Juan Pablo Solano,Camila Herrera, Maria Fernanda Gomez, Brian Acuna, Maria Teresa Cuellar, Raphael Philippon, Felipe Solano, Laure Stockley
Music by Jeff Russo, Tracie Turnbull
Cinematography : Mateo Guzmán
Edited by Nicholas Tomnay          
Running time : 101 minutes

Viewed on August 14, 2023 (Frightfest press screener)

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