“The Wheel” is an intimate drama about the hope and heartbreak of adult relationships.
Directed by Steve Pink, the film tells the story of Albee (Amber Midthunder) and Walker (Taylor Gray), two people who met in a group home when they were children and eventually married as teenagers. Now it’s almost ten years later, and the pair are dealing with growing up and growing apart. With divorce looming and their marriage seemingly doomed, Walker and Albee grab a self-help book, plan a mountain getaway, and set off in an attempt to reconnect. When they arrive at their rental cabin, they learn Carly (Bethany Anne Lind) and Ben (Nelson Lee), their two hosts for the weekend, are newly engaged. This sends Albee into a spiral of avoidance, as she tries to run away as far as possible from her true feelings.
This isn’t a pleasant, joyful story by any means, but rather a deeply thoughtful and realistic look at complicated relationships. There’s a painful truth buried within the narrative, as Albee and Walker are faced with the realities that stem from avoidance and acceptance of their marriage issues, rather than walking a path that leads to blunt honesty and moving forward. Walker believes his love will save everything, while Albee is dealing with trauma that causes her to lash out at everything and everyone. As Ben and Carly become more involved in the tense entanglement of their guests, they, too begin to examine the cracks in their own bond.
It’s a thoughtful look at two couples dealing with two different (yet similar) major life events: one on the brink of divorce and the other about to be married. It’s a parallel that doesn’t feel all that fresh or new, but the familiarity somehow makes it more genuine (and touching). Trent Atkinson‘s script is very talky, with overwritten, rigid dialogue that breaks in from time to time with a jolting sense of phoniness. But it’s the actors who sell the story, and their relationship, perfectly. I never once believed Midthunder and Gray weren’t actually married.
“The Wheel” is a small, insightful indie that’s sad, truthful, and painful, but also hopeful.