In this smoldering directorial debut from celebrated actor Paul Dano, 14-year-old Joe watches his parents’ marriage fall apart while a destructive wildfire blazes outside their idyllic Montana town.
In his eloquent and assured first film, co-writer/director Paul Dano exquisitely tackles the uncertainty bubbling beneath the surface of 1960s America, when potential destruction — whether from nuclear war or uncontrollable forest fire — threatened the lives of everyday families. Co-written with Zoe Kazan (THE BIG SICK), this portrait of a young family at an existential crossroads conjures the same lonely landscapes and sense of dislocation found in the iconic mid century paintings of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. A product of his family’s constant relocating, Joe (Ed Oxenbould, THE VISIT) is a shy, often misunderstood teen who unabashedly admires his proud father Jerry (Jake Gyllenhall) and loving mother Jeanette (Carey Mulligan). Almost exclusively seen through Joe’s eyes, WILDLIFE captures the little moments of affection and love between Jerry and Jeanette as their recent move to Montana seems to signal a new start. Yet little simmering asides at the dinner table or on the phone suggest that something is amiss, even before Jerry is fired from his job on the golf course for being too “well-liked.” Consumed by a sense of duty to provide for his family (and possibly escape it), Jerry impulsively enlists in fighting the unseen blaze that lingers on town’s periphery. Left alone for the first time, Jeanette blossoms and seems to be invigorated with a new zest for life, even bringing Joe along to increasingly suggestive dinners at the home of local car dealer Mr. Miller (Bill Camp, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL). Dano not only affirms his skills as a filmmaker through his meticulously nostalgic compositions of the time period, he also masterfully allows scenes to breathe as he captures career-high performances from his leads in what will hopefully be just the beginning of a long career behind the camera.
CAST: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Camp, Ed Oxenbould
In Competition: First Feature Award
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