TIFF 2021 | The Wheel (Steve Pink, USA)

By Adam Nayman

From the director of both Hot Tub Time Machine movies (there was a sequel, remember) comes a probing, emotional relationship drama. “What if it doesn’t work?” asks Albee (Amber Midthunder) about the step-by-step, relationship-saving experiment proposed by her husband Walker (Taylor Gray), and the only thing really pressurizing the 83 more or less watchable minutes of The Wheel is whether these two attractively sad-eyed characters—former foster-home besties who married young and spent their early twenties regretting it—will kiss (or at least hug) and make up after being put through the repressed-trauma ringer. Kudos are due to director Steve Pink and his stars for making the final, show-offy long-take-of-the-soul duet a keeper (overbearing ferris-wheel metaphors and all), but it’s tough sledding getting there,  what with the edgeless, Sundance-bland digital cinematography, hopelessly mopey singer-songwriter soundtrack, and nudgy juxtapositions between Albee and Walker’s authentically terrible love and the superifically blissful relationship of the well-heeled couple (Nelson Lee and Bethany Ann Lind, both good) whose deep-in-the-boonies AirBnB serves as a Pinterest-pretty backdrop for all the catharsis.