Magazine article Screen International

'Wildlife': Sundance Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Wildlife': Sundance Review

Article excerpt

Carey Mulligan stars in actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, an adaptation of the popular Richard Ford novel

Dir: Paul Dano. US. 2016. 104mins

In Wildlife, a sensitive teen tries to maintain his equilibrium within a dysfunctional family. That setup couldn’t be more familiar, but Paul Dano’s confident directorial debut sports the same qualities that he always brings to his own performances: it’s intelligent, understated and guardedly emotional. Based on Richard Ford’s novel, the film is a wonderful showcase for Carey Mulligan as a fed-up mother, but it also provides rising star Ed Oxenbould with a chance to play a young man who says little but observes intensely.

Wildlife blessedly lacks the tell-tale signs of being an actor’s first directorial effort in which the ensemble is permitted to indulge in over-the-top theatrics

This Sundance premiere boasts Mulligan’s star power alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in a supporting role. The source material and genre trappings should also attract audiences, with upscale markets proving most responsive

Set in 1960 in Montana, Wildlife concerns Joe (Oxenbould), who has just come to town with his long suffering mother Jeanette (Mulligan) and restless father Jerry (Gyllenhaal), who keeps moving the family in search of new job opportunities. But after he’s fired from his gig at a golf course, he reluctantly accepts risky work as part of a firefighting crew battling a blaze in the nearby forests, which will keep him away from home for weeks.

Dano, who co-wrote the adaptation, quickly focuses his attention on the relationship Joe has with his mother, who treats him more like a co-conspirator than a son. With Jerry gone, she starts talking to Joe candidly about her worries concerning her husband’s infidelity and the infrequency of their sexual intimacy. Suddenly, Jeanette reveals a more assertive, liberated personality which is a by-product of both her anger at Jerry for abandoning the family and her rising suspicion that she’s trapped in a bad marriage.

The passive Joe mostly reacts to his mother’s impulsive acts, which can be a challenge for any actor. But Oxenbould (previously seen in The Visit)displays an impressive ability to seem tranquil while hinting at the character’s underlying anxiety. His face both youthful and poised, Joe has had to grow up fast to serve as an unofficial referee between his parents, and because he loves his dad so much, he must now quietly navigate how to preserve his family once Jeanette begins courting a wealthy local entrepreneur (Bill Camp). …

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