Wildlife (2018)

wildlife poster 2018 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good directorial debut for Dano

Not a movie with answers if you expect them

Movie Info

Movie Name: Wildlife

Studio: June Pictures

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  January 20, 2018 (Sundance)/October 19, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

wildlife ed oxenbould jake gyllenhaal

Everything will be cool when it starts snowing…you’ll see

In 1960, Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould) finds himself adjusting to life in Great Falls, Montana after his father Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) moves there to be a golf pro at a local course.  When Jerry loses his job, he decides to take temporary work fighting fires in the mountains while his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Joe remain in Great Falls.  Joe begins to see his family dissolving as his mother searches for new meaning for his life, and Joe just hopes his father comes home.

Directed by Paul Dano (who helped adapt the script with Zoe Kazan), Wildlife is a period piece drama.  Dano’s directorial debut premiered adapted the 1990 novel by Richard Ford and was first released at Sundance to positive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released a version of the film (Criterion #1031).

Wildlife is an uncomfortable picture, and it is mean to be.  It is about love lost and life gained (or in some cases lost).  For a first picture, Dano shows skill that has me hoping to see more from him.

wildlife ed oxenbould carey mulligan bill camp

I hate it when my mom takes me on dates when my dad is out of town…

The story isn’t a story with a lot of answers.  The movie is a bit of a coming of age story with Joe realizing that his parents don’t have all the answers.  He is potentially the adult in the situation with his father first acting like a petulant child by refusing to accept his job back and then running off to join the firefighters and his mother putting him in the uncomfortable and deplorable act of seeing her having an affair on his father.  In the film, Mulligan’s character reminds her son that she is thirty-four (putting her at twenty when she had him).  A thirty-four year old today has more leeway for mistakes and errors in judgment, but in 1960 that wasn’t as accepted…which is an unfair double standard in many ways.  What was criminal by both characters is forgetting that they might be young adults, but their son is still a child and shouldn’t have been put in the middle of their dispute.

Some might argue that Mulligan is the amoral character of the couple, but both she and Gyllenhaal are at fault.  They play their characters with skill and get the complexity from them.  Gyllenhaal makes decisions for his family without consulting them…moving is one thing, but deciding to take a low paying “man’s job” that has you leaving your family for months without discussing it is another.   Mulligan’s behavior in front of her son is another problem.  She associates more with him as a young person than a mother but she forgets that she is a mother.  Oxenbould also is good as the shell-shocked Joe that doesn’t know what to do about what is happening to his family since he is seeing both sides.

wildlife eding picture ed oxenbould carey mulligan jake gyllenhaal

Yeah…this definitely is a keeper

The movie looks good with the mountains as a great background to the lives of the characters.  They are living in isolation with few outlets and the wildfires loom over them all.  The film was shot in Montana but also partially shot in Oklahoma due to questions about the severity of weather in Montana in winter months…which shows not much has changed since 1960s in that sense.

Wildlife is uncomfortable because it feels real.  You read stories about people who have marital spats that get bad and you only get the ending and not how they get there.  While the movie isn’t a tragedy in the sense of actions that none of the characters can come back from, it is a tragedy in that you see a family falling apart sometimes in slow motion.  The ending sequence has Joe taking a picture with his “family” which is also uncomfortable for both his parents, but they are still his parents and that won’t change for them…but how he sees them might.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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