TIFF 2021 review: ‘THE WHEEL’ is a raw portrait of devotion.

THE WHEEL

Synopsis: 

Albee and Walker, a young couple on the brink of divorce, rent a mountain getaway to save their fledgling marriage. Before long, their personal drama creates tension between their newly engaged AirBnB hosts — Ben & Carly — leaving us to wonder if either couples’ relationships will survive the weekend.


When you’re in love, real-world consequences and logic quickly fall by the wayside. Add in trauma to that sequence, and almost all bets are off. TIFF 2021 audiences got to ride an emotional rollercoaster, or perhaps, in this case, a literal Ferris Wheel. The film focuses on an attempt to repair the marriage of Albee and Walker. In doing so, Ben and Carly confront issues lurking within their impending nuptials. As secrets are revealed, reality comes knocking.

Nelson Lee, as Ben, gives us a slick, and a tad aloof, performance. He’s the backboard we need for Albee’s ceaseless attitude. Trent Atkinson‘s smart script allows Lee to play many sides of a perfectly flawed man. Bethany Anne Lind, as Carly, is the bright savior figure. Lind wears her heart on her sleeve in an attempt to get to the root of her guests’ issues. Perhaps, to her own relationship’s detriment. Amber Midthunder plays Albee with a fire that is accosting. Breaking through her wall is precarious and revealing. Midthunder walks a thin line between entitled Gen Zer and trauma survivor. You’ll be captivated by her interactions with every cast member. Taylor Gray breathes life into Walker. His vulnerability drives this story like a freight train. He’s so committed to making Albee and Walker’s relationship work. Their pain is palpable. Gray evokes a visceral response. I could not fathom someone being so unequivocally devoted to what appears to be a toxic relationship.

There’s an honesty to this script that will be a gut-punch for viewers. It will undoubtedly force you to confront your relationships. Atkinson wrote the characters of Albee and Ben to have more similarities than at first glance. He did the same with Carly and Walker, creating engrossing dynamics. There are some profound moments between these cast members. Their overall chemistry is the stuff of dreams. Ignoring all else in THE WHEEL, the final scene is one 10 plus minute take of raw emotion. It is the culmination of everything we think we know and we watch as Gray and Midthunder process those feelings in real-time. I hope people take notice of this feat. It’s a bold and beautiful choice by director Steve Pink. I think it pays off in spades as an extraordinary catharsis.


 

THE WHEEL — Directed by Steve Pink | Written by Trent Atkinson

Contemporary World Cinema — Acquisition

Produced by Amber Midthunder, Taylor Gray, Steve Pink, Josh Jason, Molly Gilula

Executive Produced by Josh Jason, Jeremy Hartman

Starring Amber Midthunder, Taylor Gray, Nelson Lee, Bethany Anne Lind, Kevin Pasdon


About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.