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Everything’s looking up for Dawn (Claire Foy) and David (Benedict Cumberbatch), a young couple who have just moved to David’s little home village in the English countryside. They’ve bought a quaint fixer-upper cottage and are trying to have a baby.

What they don’t expect is a visit from Nick (Shaun Evans), David’s younger brother, a soldier on leave from the war. David told Dawn that Nick is unstable—“he was dropped on his head as a boy”—and that he has combat-related PTSD. Dawn, however, finds Nick charming, despite his idiosyncrasies.

As Dawn gets to know Nick, however, some things begin to trouble her. Nick tells childhood stories that don’t coincide with David’s version of his family’s history. Humorous sibling teasing between the brothers turns to bullying. And when scary things begin happening, each brother accuses the other. It’s then that Dawn starts sleeping with one eye open, unsure of whether or not she really knows the man she married.

Wreckers is a quiet, slow-moving, nuanced film, in which every word, every look, and every breath counts. It’s told from Dawn’s point of view, so the truths are revealed as she learns them, and we share her mounting questions. She experiences most of the arguments between the brothers in shadow or dream sequences, which only deepens her fears. And what seems at first like a simple love story turns quickly into a taut pins-and-needles thriller.

Writer/director Dictynna Woods uses setting to create the softly intensifying mood, a gathering storm: trees rustling in the wind, shadows deepening, even the cackling of chickens. The few buildings, too, offer a sparse, poignant commentary: dirty windows trap butterflies trying to escape, stained-glass angels discern unspoken longings, and a rusted-out, overgrown garage has tales to tell.

Most of the film involves just the three main characters, and all of them deliver outstanding performances. Cumberbatch is surprisingly tender and passionate as husband David, who then turns desperate and volatile, terrified of the secrets his new wife may learn. Shaun Evans creates deep compassion for Nick, the unstable, depressive, vulnerable younger brother who needs closure—and so much more. And Claire Foy excels in her careful use of facial expressions and body language, first to conceal, then to convey her growing distress about being thrust into the middle of this frightening family drama.

Wreckers is a stark, sensitive portrayal of family secrets and the decisions we make to handle them. It’s a poignant film for those who appreciate a complex, intelligent, well-crafted dramatic thriller.

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