When watching Wasp, I couldn’t help wonder what the film might be like if it was done again, but with different actors and director. That’s because it’s a relatively simple set-up that relies totally on how it’s played and how it’s filmed, and it’s due to this that the movie is perhaps not everything it might have been.
Olivier (Simon Haycock) and James (Hugo Bolton) are a gay couple who’ve left Britain for a romantic getaway in the South Of France. However, their romantic idyll is disrupted by the arrival of Caroline (Elly Condron), an old friend of James’ who’s just split up with her long-term boyfriend.
Initially it looks like the trio will be able to have a good time together, but then complications arise when Elly notices, or at least thinks she notices, Olivier staring at her. She begins to put the moves on Olivier, which he resists. However, she may not be completely off-base, as while Olivier says he is gay, he has previously been with women (but not for a long time), and there does seem to be some sort of attraction.
The somewhat naïve James is oblivious to all this at first, but as the days go by, he begins to become suspicious about whether something is going on between his friend and his boyfriend.
There’s plenty about Wasp that should be interesting and intriguing, and indeed on an intellectual level it is. The film uses its chamber piece set-up – three characters in a limited location – to question whether sexuality is immutable or fluid, and also how people might respond to that.
The problems come due to the fact that it’s very difficult to care about any of the characters. For example, the film questions whether Olivier and James are good together, partly as Olivier likes to think of himself as an intellectual, while James is more interested in simpler pleasures. However, the way it comes across is that Olivier is pretentious and arrogant, while James verges on being vacuous. Similarly, Caroline’s actions are supposedly due to her being broken by the end of her relationship and in need of new connection, but she actually seems unpleasant and predatory, not caring that what she does may result in someone else ending up in the same position she’s in.
With an extremely smart script, exceptionally tight direction and expert acting, this could have worked, ensuring that while you may not like these people, you can empathise with where they’re coming from and the issues they’re exploring. Here though, you don’t get that. The script is interesting but has a tendency to be either too on-the-nose or too hesitant. The direction lacks the intensity and claustrophobia it needed, as while the film has a limited location it doesn’t quite bring you into the character’s world enough to really feel for what’s going on.
In the interviews that are included on the disc, it’s clear that the actors all have interesting and complex ideas about what their characters are doing and how they interact. However, what they talk about doesn’t fully come across on the screen.
The ideas the movie deals with are undoubtedly interesting and on an intellectual level the film succeeds in getting your brain working. Has Olivier’s sexuality shifted? Is he really bisexual but hasn’t accepted that? Is he gay but unsure about his relationship and so is reacting to a possibility he doesn’t really want? Does any of that really matter when faced with three human beings acting this way, irrespective of gender/sexuality? However, Wasp has more questions than answers, and the questions it does raise run over the surface rather than getting under the skin of the characters.
It’s the sort of movie that really wants to explore its situation and character through glance and other non-verbal means, but it doesn’t quite have the skill and dexterity to pull it off. Again, the idea of what’s happening is more interesting than the execution, such as a sequence where what may be happening between Caroline and Olivier starts percolating in James’ mind until it reaches a crescendo. The way it’s done in interesting and intriguing, but I always felt like I was on the outside, appreciating the idea but not really being pulled in to what was going on.
Again, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like with different actors and directors, and whether someone else could have more fully teased out the possibilities. However, we’ll probably never know.
Overall Verdict: While you can appreciate the ideas, ambition and intrigue of Wasp, the characters don’t really pull you in (indeed for much of the running time they’re pretty obnoxious), leaving something that feels a little too affected and cold.
Wasp is out on DVD now and screens at the Raindance Film Festival on Wednesday September 20th, 2015.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac