Bryan Cranston stars as a successful lawyer and family man who disappears from his own life and observes his baffled loved ones from a hiding place in the attic, in writer-director Robin Swicord's adaptation of the short story by E.L. Doctorow.
Who amongst us has never wanted to walk away from it all? It is a cold fact of modern life that some days everything becomes too much. For Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), New York City lawyer, husband, and father of two, the overwhelming impulse to just leave arises one night as he stands in his own suburban driveway.
Howard, however, does not run far. Inspired (or led?) by a raccoon, he enters the attic of his two-car garage, and proceeds to hide there for weeks. He spends hours every day observing his wife, Diana (Jennifer Garner), and the consequences of his disappearance, taking advantage of his family's daytime absence to shower and raid the fridge. Howard's prolonged disappearance from his own life leads him to engage in deep thought and conversation (with himself ) about his marriage, fatherhood, and his complicated feelings about the primary relationships in his life. Rationalizing the pain he knows he is causing them, he tells himself, "They've hardly been abandoned — I'm right here."
Eventually, Howard begins to prowl the town streets at night in search of food and space. Dishevelled and unrecognizable, he revels in his freedom while never losing his visual and emotional ties to his family. But, prompted by the re-entry of an old flame into his wife's life, Howard realizes that it may not be easy to go home again, as his flight will seem as inexplicable and inexcusable to his wife as it seemed completely necessary to him.
Based on a short story by E.L. Doctorow, Wakefield is made compellingly alive by Cranston's bravura performance, which laces the character's existential crisis with dimensions of humour, anger, cynicism, and irony. Some may judge his actions to be unforgiveable, but the final moment of the film will start an entirely different conversation.