What You Wish For - Fantastic Fest US Premiere
Director: Nicholas Tomnay
Starring: Nick Stahl, Tamsin Topolski, Randy Vasquez, Penelope Mitchell, Brian Groh
Written by: Nicholas Tomnay
Produced by: Kevin Chinoy, Francesca Silvestri, Nicholas Tomnay
Cinematography by: Mateo Guzmán
Original Score by: Jeff Russo, Tracie Turnbull
A chef with gambling problems flees to a Latin American villa where he assumes another man's identity.
A project that was several years in the making, Nicholas Tomnay's second feature film follows ex-chef Ryan (Nick Stahl) as he adopts the identity of his wealthy friend in this sly and darkly humorous thriller.
Nick Stahl is a stalwart, journeyman actor who rarely disappoints yet has never quite hit the heights that perhaps some lesser actors in his category have experienced. He often excels in dark, grisly roles and he continues the trend here by portraying a down on his luck chef who has gotten himself into a spot of bother with a mysterious loan shark named Rabbit.
Escaping to somewhere in Latin America, Ryan meets up with old friend and fellow chef Jack (Brian Groh) whose career has turned out remarkably different than Ryan's. Jack works for a private agency who hire him to create lavish culinary events for the elite all over the world.
We're about to head into spoiler territory and I really don't want to expose too much here so I'll just say that Jack doesn't hang around too much longer and Ryan takes the opportunity to assume his identity, which as insane as it sounds, actually works. Ryan sees this as a chance to rid himself of his financial debt and potentially start from scratch, however Jack failed to mention something quite important about the agency that he works for.
Tomnay does a great job with a stripped down budget and the film uses what it has to its advantages. The set pieces are elegant and Mateo Guzmán's cinematography helps to create a taut, slick and dangerous atmosphere. There are quite a few twists and turns which helps to maintain an air of intrigue even if it's hard to believe at times and Stahl's vigorously sober but impressive performance keeps the ship steered in the correct direction.
There's definitely a very obvious attempt to highlight some social themes about hierarchy, class, exploitation and entitlement. It won't be for everyone but the action and thrills are fairly entertaining throughout which overall makes it a fun enough watch.
- Gavin Logan
'What You Wish For' received its US Premiere at Fantastic Fest '23 on September 22nd