Rated: R for some sexual material and language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 19, 2017 Released by: IFC Films
A lack of narrative substance is at the core of the undoing of this otherwise oddly voyeuristic drama that might nod towards Hitchcock by Robin Swicord (The Jane Austen Book Club, also writer of Memoirs of a Geisha). It's adapted with some flair from an E.L. Doctorow short story with an impetuous protagonist going on a longer surreptitious 'sabbatical' than expected.
A self-imposed exile is on the docket for middle-aged attorney Howard Wakefield, played by Bryan Cranston (Why Him?, Trumbo), in upstate New York. An internal suffocation leads to his moving into the (outhouse garage attic) unbeknownst to his family, leading to much speculation by his wife Diana (Jennifer Garner of Mother's Day, Miracles From Heaven).
For a while, Swicord does well with the peculiar premise as Howard's life (in middle-age) has gotten to a point where he can't face his family (including two daughters). He turns to spying on them from his perch and gains some perverse fascination as Howard provides ongoing narration which includes some droll observations. Some 'looking back' sequences try to enhance certain elements of the story to offer insight into a troubled soul who displays a previous unknown truculent, antisocial side.
This repressed filmic idiosyncrasy is obviously enhanced by Cranston's assured way through Howard's end in refashioning or allaying his torment at the expense of those who care and need him most. Obviously, the singular vantage point approach has a uniqueness which includes little audibility from other characters including Beverly D'Angelo's Babs. Garner is able to do much with little dialogue, though she gets more to do before a decision that will decidedly leave her abandoning spouse more unrecognizable.
Wakefield works pretty well off of the inexplicable even if it doesn't have the spirited denouement it tries so hard to earn; manipulation from Howard's interaction with young special needs neighbors doesn't go over well with the early momentum sputtering noticeably from what could have bolstered the antecedent's gimmick. Still, Cranston's showcase into Howard's solitude has viable, watchable interludes that has the imagination at work during domestic conversation.