Synopsis: A weekend getaway to Croatia goes awry when a woman is accused of killing her best friend.
Stars: Leighton Meester, Christina Wolfe, Luke Norris, Ziad Bakri, Amar Bukvic, Iva Mihalic
Director: Kim Farrant
Running Length: 89 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: I’m not sure where you’re reading this from or when you might find this review, but I’m writing it on the edge of the darker winter months in the upper Midwest, where the ground is covered with snow, and the air is frigid. Right about now, the prospect of warm weather being nearer than further is the carrot that will get you to push through a few more months of work. It’s when many of us look at planning get out of town, last-ditch cabin fever trips to sunny ports of call where summer may be a year-round feeling, and the beaches aren’t as crowded as they’ll be once families start their travel plans after school lets out. If nothing else, finding a sunny space in your home with a beach read that can sweep you away might be the tantalizing bite to satiate you for the time being, and it will cost a lot less than roundtrip airfare to Belize.
That appeal has a lot to do with the popularity of author Sarah Alderson’s thrillers. These efficient blockbusters are easy to digest while still offering the reader a fully formed story structure to support her often twisty plotlines. Agatha Christie, they’re not, but they aren’t dime store throwaways either, and it’s easy to see why Alderson has been able to divide her time between writing published work as well as television. The ability to keep things tight and together makes the stories easy to imagine as pieces that could translate easily to movies, something of which I’m sure the author is aware. That’s a strong reason Alderson has adapted her 2020 novel The Weekend Away for Netflix. While not out to shatter expectations of what the genre or anyone involved is ultimately capable of, it’s an unpredictable 89-minute trip halfway around the world.
Since their days at university, Beth (Leighton Meester, The Judge) and Kate (Christina Wolfe) have traveled different paths after graduation. Beth has settled down for domestic life with Rob (Luke Norris) and is mother to a still-nursing infant, while Kate has gone the opposite direction, opting for days where the party never ends. Divorcing her wealthy husband, Kate has invited Beth to a seaside Croatian town to reconnect and allow the new mother time away to recharge. Greeted at the airport by kindly taxi driver Zain (Ziad Bakri), who offers to show her around if she ever needs him, Beth has barely arrived at the deluxe accommodations Kate has arranged before her friend wants to take her out for a night in the otherwise innocuous town.
Waking up the next day to find Kate gone and a few oddities both in their rental and her fuzzy memories she can’t piece together, Beth waits the entire day for Kate to show up, and when she doesn’t return later that night, she makes a call to the police for assistance. Feeling stonewalled, Beth calls up her taxi driver friend to see if he might be able to help her remember what happened the night before, thinking it will lead her to what might have happened to Kate. Instead, she winds up implicated in a murder that has several suspects who may have had a hand in it…including herself.
Even if Netflix has expressly forbidden us to pump the brakes right about now and let you discover the rest of what happens in The Weekend Away for yourself, I would have had to stop my recap there. It’s right around that point in the movie when Alderson starts to cast significant doubt on our perception of the facts by presenting no different explanations of the solution, just alternate angles to the crime committed that night. It did catch me off guard several times and whatever theory I was working in my mind at what happened had to be scrapped almost in its entirety.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and heap too much praise on The Weekend Away as a highly detail-oriented mystery. Filmed on location in beautiful Croatia, director Kim Farrant is more efficient in keeping the action moving quicker than spending extra time on the actors/characters molding the plot contrivances into less convenient coincidences. Farrant loves a red herring, and for a while, I wondered if there would be any men in the film introduced as not an immediate suspect for the person(s) that may know where Kate is. Thankfully, there are people on Beth’s side, but she has to find them first, wading through a coastline filled with creepy voyeurs and members of the police who aren’t taking her protestations of innocence seriously.
Keeping the movie heartily afloat is Meester, an underrated actress mostly known for her television work but tends to make a strong showing in film projects. I bought that she was a stay-at-home mom that may have not quite wanted this life when she was growing up and perhaps harbors some jealousy with Kate because of her ‘freedom.” Was the jealously strong enough to kill for? Meester does a solid job with playing it almost entirely one way but allowing a few strands of the opposite to bleed through – that makes you wonder what Farrant and her screenwriter have up their sleeve for the final act. I liked the chemistry between Meester and Wolfe, too. The friendship, warm one minute but icy the next, felt natural and understandably standoffish when lines get blurred. Of the other supporting players, I enjoyed Iva Mihalic as a police officer who first suspects Beth but grows to doubt her guilt.
Like the recent Netflix film Brazen, The Weekend Away is a female-led effort and a rather good one. There’s a comfortable feel to this one, and it doesn’t skimp on the elements that go into a good “accused and on the run” thriller that sets your pulse racing just enough to make the time fly by. It’s nothing you’ll remember five days after you see it, but while everyone is out seeing The Batman over the next month, you can fire up The Weekend Away with confidence that you’ll get a little something out of the trip for the effort.