The new Netflix thriller “The Weekend Away” opens with a clever contrast. The first shot is the corpse of a woman, face down in a dark ocean, then it cuts to the sunny and beautiful oceanside Croatian landscape. This sets the paradox of the impending darkness that will soon bear down on a reunion between two best friends.
Unfortunately, this is the most interesting thing on offer with this new film.
Directed by Kim Farrant (“Strangerland”) and based on the novel of the same name by Sarah Alderson (who also wrote the screenplay), the picture finds Kate (Christina Wolfe) and her best friend Beth (Leighton Meester) meeting after a long while for a weekend in Eastern Europe.
Kate is freshly divorced, and Beth needs some time away from her husband and new baby.
After a night out for dinner and clubbing, Kate goes missing. Beth stays to try and find her friend and uncover the truth of what has transpired. Unfortunately, her worries fall on deaf ears. Kate’s ex-husband figures she is just “being Kate” and the local authorities are annoyed with tourist problems. After a horrific discovery, Beth becomes the main suspect in Kate’s disappearance.
While this is a story that may sound interesting, the execution and cheap presentation strive to be something more thrilling than it could possibly achieve.
After a twist that should have helped the movie catch fire, the film slips into the world of the familiar and eventually, the preposterous.
Beyond the opening establishing shots, Farrant’s film never reaches a visual imprimatur, nothing in the film’s design enhances the thriller aspect of the material.
Farrant wants her film to hit on “Gone Girl” levels, but instead, the picture looks and feels like it was created for the Lifetime network.
While Noah Greenberg’s cinematography captures the Croatian locations nicely, the film’s visuals never rise above those of a promotional tourism commercial.
The cast is adequate but no performance saves the film from dullness.
The film is experienced through Leighton Meester’s point of view and the actress proves herself capable enough, though one must wonder how well she would have done with better material.
As Kate, Christina Wolfe doesn’t have much screen time but she doesn’t register beyond the cliched portrayal of the wild, “Let’s party and forget your problems!” type of friend.
Ziad Bakri as “Zain” gives the only performance that truly hits the marks, he’s the cab driver who helps Beth search for what really happened. His performance is soft and kind and grounded, unlike any other moment or person in the film.
While the film drags on, it becomes more and more ridiculous, even resorting to a moment where Beth and Zain are chased through the streets “The Fugitive” style.
By the final eye reveal Farrant’s film loses its way, a broken shell of its former self.
(featured image: Leighton Meester and Ziad Bakri in “The Weekend Away”)