(London Film Festival, October 13th, 2018/Picturehouse Central, 20:45)
(Release Info London schedule; November 6th, 2018/Picturehouse Central, 18:30)
Fourteen-year-old Joe (Ed Oxenbould), is the only child of Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal), a housewife and a golf pro, in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job, and his sense of purpose, he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Suddenly forced into the role of an adult, Joe witnesses his mother’s struggle as she tries to keep her head above water. But Jerry can't deal with his new, secondary role. He takes on a badly paid job fighting fires in the neighbouring hills, which fuels the conflict at home. Joe can only watch helplessly as his family seems set to self-destruct.
Awakening her fiery spirit and charm, Jeannette convinces the local 'YMCA' to give her a job as a swimming instructor. Joe, for his part, lands a gig at a local photography studio. Too prideful to look for work in town, Jerry instead joins in fighting the nearby wildfires. Alone for the first time in years, Jeannette finds herself with more independence than she can deal with. When she's befriended by one of her students, she begins to question her circumstances and her choices. Cautious and curious, Joe must learn how to navigate the complex dynamics of adult relationships and decide what to make of the woman who used to just be Mom. As simmering tensions begin to boil, the Brinsons must decide if their family is worth saving.
"Wildlife" is elegantly adapted from Richard Ford’s novel of the same name. Actor Paul Dano makes an impressive debut as a filmmaker and Carey Mulligan delivers one of her finest performances to date as Jeanette, a complex woman whose self-determination and self-involvement disrupts the values and expectations of a 1960s nuclear family. It's about a kid seeing his parents change and their marriage break, and through his parent's failures, having to grow up. It's a coming of age story for all three: mother, father, and son. While it's about struggle and heartbreak and disillusionment, it's a film guided by love. It's a family portrait as a means of acceptance, and of letting go. With precise details and textures of it's specific time and place, "Wildlife" commits to the viewpoint of a teenage boy observing the gradual dissolution of his parent's marriage.
This is a film about family. There's an extraordinary amount of love. There's also incredible turbulence. "Willlife" opens a window to that duality. It's an uncanny feeling of sharing an inner life with this book. Establish your own values, means, goal; leave the book behind so it doesn’t get in the way, and where it’s safest. The film explores feelings, ask questions about family and parents. To explore a loss of hope, a family unraveling, and then finally surviving. How even when the worst thing happens, we can still survive. We can still be family. We may never be the same, but we still have love. And we still have our lives to live.
Cinematographer Diego Garcia's clean aesthetic, the film's authentic period design and Dano's precise, mannered direction ground the film in time and place, bringing focus to the characters. Dano chooses for his version a coming-of-age story, set in the postwar 'American Midwest', told through a feminist lens. The film strikes the meaning and the cost of 'The American Dream'. "Wildlife" paints a portrait of a family and an America ready to explode. "Wildlife" is made with a sensitivity and at a level of craft that are increasingly rare in movies.