The Wanting Mare REVIEW – Left Wanting A Better Story

A fascinating vision undercut by an approach that proves too abstract for its own good.

The Wanting Mare

Taking place on the planet of Anmaere, The Wanting Mare unfolds in the dystopian city of Whithren, where tensions run high and everyone is constantly sweating. Wild horses are the city’s primary export. They are sent annually across the ocean to Levithen — a snow-covered landscape isolated from humanity. Reaching Levithen provides an opportunity for individuals to start their lives anew, if they can obtain a ticket to ride the barge with the horses.

Moira (Jordan Monaghan) is motivated to reach Levithen by a recurring dream, instilled in her by her mother, of a magical time before everything went downhill. She encounters Lawrence (Bateman), a gang member seeking the coveted tickets through cutthroat means, and the two of them fall deeply in love. After a harrowing series of events, they are eventually separated, and Moira is left to care for a baby that Lawrence finds abandoned on the coast. That child, called Eirah (Yasamin Keshtkar), is propelled by Moira’s same dream. What follows is a multi-generational story of motherhood, love, hope, community, and rebirth within a mysterious environment.

Although Bateman’s film doesn’t make the most of its intriguing premise, the passion poured into this project from everyone involved is obvious. If nothing else, the film’s presentation and thought-provoking storyline keeps it afloat — even if its structure and character development leave much to be desired.

From the film’s opening moments, it’s clear that The Wanting Mare will be a feast for the senses, and the special effects wizardry that Bateman and crew achieve with limited resources is undeniably impressive. Equally as impressive is the breadth of themes that the film posits, even if they aren’t explored as effectively as they could have been.

Cinematographer David A. Ross captures sweeping, lens-flared vistas of a dangerous city and a vast ocean, across which lies a beacon of hope for the film’s troubled souls. These people are fueled by love, revenge, and hopes for a better life — their bodies juxtaposed against the foreboding city that they reside in and the fog-drenched, oceanic expanse that some believe holds an antidote to their suffering. Moira and Eirah are essentially trapped by this thought, unable to break free from it as their world bears down on them.

Indeed, these sights prove more memorable than any of the characters themselves, who aren’t given enough depth for me to become truly invested. This is largely because of the film’s pacing, which unfolds in a hypnotic, dreamlike fashion — not spending much time on any particular moment before launching into the next, and relying more on meaningful looks than dialogue. Although this lessens the film’s emotional impact, I appreciate how it builds upon itself to paint an increasingly large-scale picture. The film’s score also complements the pacing well, perpetually rising and fading not unlike waves lapping against a shore.

Still, while the film’s impressionistic flow lends itself to beautiful images and strong performances (particularly from Monaghan), the nitty-gritty of the world and the central characters are, sadly, glossed over. I wish The Wanting Mare had slowed down to zero in on the characters’ relationships and reveal more information about the surroundings they inhabit. Few details are given as to the conflicts that plague Whithren, or the characters’ personalities and defining characteristics. They don’t feel like real people as a result, and I feel distanced from them when I really shouldn’t be.

When they actually speak, the film’s screenplay misses a chance to give their words meaning. Sometimes, in fact, the characters’ phrasing of certain events is vague to a fault.

What viewers are left with is a cinematic vision brimming with possibility, and a universe that practically begs to be expanded upon. I eagerly await the director’s next films, and I hope that as much attention can be paid to the characters themselves as the visual backdrop to their journeys.

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The Wanting Mare is an ambitious film that’s worth watching for its creativity alone. The film’s style, however, remains at odds with the story being conveyed.