Well Wishes Adds Up – A Review
Miles (Shane Callahan) finds himself on the losing end of a coin toss to determine whether he gets promoted or fired, and is subsequently dumped by his high-strung and materialistic girlfriend. But just as he’s at his lowest, he comes up with a genius but crazy scheme to amass a fortune by collecting the coins in wishing fountains. When the endeavor grows bigger than he originally planned, he recruits his best friend Jack (Cullen Moss) and a friendly local homeless man Durwood (Don Henderson Baker) to help. With the team in place, Miles travels around North Carolina gathering coins. In one park, he has a fateful encounter with Penelope (Anna Stromberg), a woman running from her troubles and eager to join Miles on his trek.
The debut feature Well Wishes, written and directed by Anderson Boyd, feels like an artifact of late 90s/early 00s independent filmmaking. It would be completely at home as a minor Miramax release in frequent afternoon rotation on HBO. Boyd’s assured direction feels like a close relative to the scale found in David Gordon Green‘s more intimate works. While the film would be perfectly suited on 16mm, it has all the polish and refinement of a mid-budget studio film. The exceptional cinematography by Daniel Satinoff raises the bar for how terrific a micro-budget film can look.
The entire cast has warm and authentic chemistry which serves the film well. Shane Callahan nails the likable everyman, coming off as a less-intense and infinitely more huggable young William Peterson. He’s so genuine that you’ll willing go along with this seemingly silly and uncomplicated plot. Equally appealing is Don Henderson Baker’s performance as Durwood. There’s more than meets the eye to this character and Baker’s performance subtly alludes to that without giving much away.
Anna Stromberg’s performance as the mysterious and somber Penelope is also strong, though her character brushes dangerously close to manic pixie dream girl status (see her straddling cannon with shouts of “wahoo”). She’s running from legal troubles that are frustratingly never stated until they can be neatly resolved. But Stromberg’s grounded performance makes the character work. Perhaps the only real misfire in the film is the supporting character Hans (Nate Panning), a late addition to the coin business team. His indiscernible foreign accent and camera-mugging expressions fall completely flat and feel out of place in the otherwise subdued world Boyd has created.
The turns in the final act are slightly predictable and veer into schmaltz, but won’t leave anyone already invested in the story short-changed. Well Wishes is a refreshing, non-ironic, cynicism-free work that could be summed up succinctly as… nice. The one-word descriptor may be short and sweet, but so is this charming film.
Well Wishes is available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play starting May 10, 2016.