By Lea Pichardo
Netflix’s newest thriller, “Windfall” is a story about three people, none of whom are given names. They are known only as Nobody (Jason Segel), CEO (Jesse Plemons), and Wife (Lily Collins). Directed by Charlie McDowell, and written by Justin Lader and Jason Segel, the story begins when Nobody, a generally gruff and unhappy but non-confrontational man, breaks into the CEO and Wife’s vacation house.
Nobody’s plan is to go in, steal a lot of money, and get out. In fact, he's about to get away when the two arrive unexpectedly. Chaos ensues, but only briefly. It’s only a matter of time before negotiations take the place of panic, and anger takes the place of fear. The truth is that Nobody has no idea what he is doing. He’s never held anyone hostage before and he’s bad at it. Not only are the CEO and his Wife not as happily married as they appear to be, but perfection is a lie and every decision comes with its own set of consequences.
The film is tense, funny, unique and original. It marches to the beat of its own drum. The characters and the conversations between them felt real, even given the strange circumstances. I was especially drawn in by the authenticity of the acting. Lily Collins, with her pale sallow face and pursed lips, really did look like a wife who was trapped in a loveless marriage. She convinced me that she was relieved at being taken hostage by a supposed madman, even if a part of her was distraught that she felt that way. Perhaps, as it was implied, being taken hostage was the excuse she needed not to go back to a meaningless existence, devoid of passion and freedom. She was compelling even when she was doing little more than sitting down and observing. It was refreshing to see that so much of the story’s potential and success was in the hands of an actress who could convey so much emotion without saying a single word at all.
Among many other things, what made the film brilliant was every small detail that contributed to its realism. The writers were in no hurry to fill the silences of conversations that had come to an end. Instead, they let the characters sit there, all of them tense, just waiting for something to happen. I adored the dialogue as well. When the characters interacted with each other, the timing of their conversations was consistent and reasonable. In other words, I felt like I was listening to a conversation happen in real time, between two incredibly real and starkly different people. I enjoyed listening to the hitches in breath, to the shaky quality of voices that were angry or sad. I enjoyed listening to the abrupt curses, and the ways in which they cut each other off, each on a mission to be the loudest voice in the room and the only one that mattered.
The pacing of everything was perfect. The realism of it all, even given the interesting circumstances the three main characters found themselves in, is what made the story compelling. It helps that the film is also incredibly easy on the eyes. The story grips you but so does the luxurious house and the visually stunning views of nature that surround it from all sides.
Lastly, I liked the ending. It was unexpected and bittersweet. The ending gave the viewers room to interpret the story in a variety of ways. It gave the viewers room to meditate on what they had seen, witnessed and heard. In addition to being unpredictable, the ending was also undefinable. In other words, I don’t believe the ending can be readily categorized as a good ending or as a bad ending. I appreciated this. I appreciated not knowing where the cards would fall and then finding myself just having to accept it.
All in all, Windfall isn’t about what you think it may be about. Like other thrillers, you will be tempted to believe things that aren’t true. People, places and things that were once simple and untainted will become ominous and foreboding. Regardless, the film delivers on all of the promises it made in the trailer. If you do watch it, you are in for a wild ride.