Partly funded via an Indiegogo campaign, The Wanting Mare is an experimental, frustrating, tedious, but visually interesting look at a world it doesn’t tell us enough about.
In a hazy smog filled world, fireflies swirl in the middle distance and the constant crashing of ocean waves suggests a potential for other lives dangerously out of reach. Our characters live in this middle distance, underdeveloped, stunted by time jumps that mess with any clarity of who they are or what motivates them. Allegiances are vague, and the one relationship that is given any time to breathe is cut short with little explanation.
The world bears some resemblance with ours; they dance and listen to eight track tapes, there are ships, horses, tickets, and other familiar things. It’s never explained whether this is a possible future or alternative present, and not enough clues are given to really allow us to come to a conclusion on it. Too much time is spent on voiceovers that talk about dreams and futures without really doing any work to fill out the mythology they hint at.
Each jump forward in time forces us to puzzle out who we are looking at from the previous section. Is that woman the baby from the opening? She is. Is he the man from earlier? We think so. But it takes far too long to tell us their names, and so any interactions between them feel without context and pointless. When the penny drops, you’re probably already bored. These jumps also don’t really seem to serve much purpose; with each one nothing has changed and we see characters essentially facing the same difficulties as earlier in the same environments. If the intention was to create an anthology format, it doesn’t work. Reading the synopsis tells us that horses are a valuable commodity but the film doesn’t, with only one appearing and then not being used as more than a background detail.
Director Nicholas Ashe Bateman has a visual effects background, and you can clearly see that. He has created backdrops that are familiar and bizarre at the same time on a low budget. The stark wasteland our characters inhabit is a strange combination of wild hills and cliffs and the cramped stacked up living conditions of slums.
The performances are good, with Jordan Monaghan’s Moira and director Bateman’s Lawrence showing true chemistry. The montage of their building affection towards each other is the highlight of the film. There is a majesty to Christine Kellogg-Darrin’s performance as the elder Moira too, and the charming and unusual inclusion of romance and sex between two older actors.
The music too is well realised, with the pop songs written for the film reminiscent of Carly Simon, in between cues from Aaron Boudreaux’s competent score.
Ultimately, The Wanting Mare is perhaps not the best way for Bateman to showcase his talents, with the visuals promising much more than we are ever given.
The Wanting Mare is available to rent or own on digital HD from Bulldog Film Distribution on 7 February 2022