Fantastic Fest 2023 Film Review: What You Wish For

How many times have you heard of someone like what someone else has, work, relationships, etc.? Not only like what someone else has but to the point of saying or demonstrating, they want it too. It is not unusual to learn that someone also takes extreme measures to access or secure the coveted “thing.”

What You Wish For had the US premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX, after screening at the UK horror festival FrightFest in August. The psychological thriller is written and directed by Nicholas Tomnay (The Perfect Host) and stars Nick Stahl (Terminator 3) as Ryan, who goes to visit an old friend from culinary school, Jack (Brian Groh, “Major Crimes” TV series) who is on one of his highly paid assignments in what appears to be a Latin American country. Ryan is not successfully employed in a culinary job, and when the movie begins, there are enough hints that Ryan is fleeing from someone or something.

This movie is quite a cautionary tale about seeing certain circumstances one way, thinking that is what you would like, and then finding out there is much more required of the job or individual. Those details can make or break the decision-making process for some folks.

Ryan has a debt and people who want to be paid. Jack’s work and lifestyle are the dreams to handle his money issues. Jack doesn’t share many details about how he secured work from an “agency,” as he refers to it. Jack laments that as well-paid as it is, he still wants to return to simpler days. Within days, Jack takes action to make a change, yet the current assignment still needs to be carried out. Ryan steps into the opportunity unexpectedly based on his need for fast cash. The wheels start turning when Imogene (Tamsin Topolski, “Guilt” and “Atlanta” TV series) and Maurice (Juan Carlos Messier) from the “agency” arrive to see that everything is in place for the grand meal that super wealthy clients have paid for and expect each meal to be even better than the last.

Reading only a few articles about the film before viewing it is best. I wonder if others have been writing comments and giving away too much about this story. I just went with the story about Ryan being in a pinch for a large sum of money, figuring he would pull it off somehow, but that is not how it turns out. Nick Stahl shines in this film, first looking desperate, then happy as if he scored the best prize possible, and then pale as it turns out to be much more demanding than expected. What is he to do? Just grin and keep cooking.

Also to be recognized is Randy Vasquez, who has the role of Detective Ruiz from the city. He has come to consult with local Officer Gallo (Ariel Sierra) about a missing relative in the local region. Vasquez is excellent as he tries to play it cool, knowing he is in an elegant setting and is intruding at this dinner party. As a viewer, the tension builds as the conversation continues, and the smart-as-a-whip Maurice (Messier) knows he will have to step in to handle the situation if the detective gets too close.

After screening at Fantastic Fest, there appears to be a continuation at other festivals for viewing.

Source: Frightfest, Fantastic Fest

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