London Film Festival 2018
Wildlife tells the story of a family of three who have recently moved to a remote town in a bush fire-prone area of Montana. Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) looses his job at a local golf club and after his supporting wife trying to help him find a replacement job he leaves his family to work for the volunteer firemen to help protect their town from the ever growing bush fires. Jerry’s wife Jeanette (Carrie Mulligan) is left at home to raise their son and find a job to provide for them both. The news of her husbands departure sends her on a downward spiral of affairs, alcohol and deceit. Whilst all of this is happening around him Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is left to fend for himself, find a job, and is forced to grow up before his time.
This story of family, lies, affairs, depression and heartache is stunningly told through Paul Dano’s creative direction. There is a dominant sense of intrusion into the family home throughout the entire piece, with the use of still camera shots which allow the actors to move on and off the screen without looking like it’s a mistake. Dano also set up a shots so that we didn’t see the conversation happening but the reaction from the character concerned. Joe plays a big role in providing a constant emotion throughout as we see the majority of the action from his perspective, as a 14 year old kid he feels it’s his duty to sit back and watch his family fall apart in front of him but as time passes he then feels the instinct to become the parental figure in this car crash situation.
Dano is one of the most intelligent filmmakers in Hollywood at the moment, as seen in this film, his use of symbolism may not be subtle (as seen with the wildfire representing the family being naturally destroyed) but they are powerful and they leave the audience completely glued to the screen.
The performances throughout were perfect. Carrie Mulligan tells the story of a woman fighting against the expectations of a 1950’s housewife and dealing with a pre-midlife crisis so elegantly that she makes it look effortless. There are parts throughout the film where you empathise with what she’s dealing with but that soon turns into hatred for her as she continues with a sordid affair. Gyllenhaal’s character can, at times, come across as pathetic but once you remind yourself of the pride of men in the 1950’s your forced to sympathise with him, his love for his son is evident throughout and the delivered performance is utterly compelling. Pretty much perfect in all the films he’s performed in, Gyllenhaal proves his incomparable acting ability yet again.
The stand out performance for me came from Oxenbould, he carried the entire production on his shoulders and did so with complete grace and prowess. He controlled Joe’s emotions perfectly without ever showing him giving in to the world that is currently crashing down around him. Flawless.
I loved this film, everything about it was effortlessly perfect. The styling was stunning, we usually see 50’s suburban America in a bright colourful light but throughout Wildlife we are shown it to be normal, not always happy and really quite drab in times. The script was calm and quiet without overpowering dialogue which allowed the cast to perform. I will be gutted if it doesn’t receive award recognition for performance and direction.
I highly recommend Wildlife to everyone, it’s an example of how great minds can make great films.