Montana in the 1960s. Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) suddenly loses his job as a groundskeeper at a golf club. He decides to accept a fire fighting job in the mountains, leaving his teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould), an aspiring photographer, and his wife Jeanette (the incredible Carey Mulligan) on their own. Joe will be the witness of his family’s collapsing in the following weeks, while Jeanette chooses to take a step forward and regain her autonomy. For his debut film, Paul Dano (Swiss Army Man) decided to adapt Richard Ford’s 1990 novel Wildlife along with his partner Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick).
Screened at well-known festivals such as Sundance and Cannes, Wildlife received three nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards and various awards. It is solid and harrowing opera prima with its three main actors in a state of grace. While Dano positions himself as a great director and a wonderful cinematograph, Zoe Kazan endows the film’s characters with rich souls, full of nuances and contrasts. Without presenting a portrait of domestic life that is as bitter as Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, Wildlife depicts love and weariness, hopes and joys, and dreams thwarted by social conventions. A special shout-out to Mulligan, who offers one of her strongest and most nuanced performances yet.
Fortunately, nowadays, things have evolved slowly, and more people can enjoy their youth and freedom without the weight of prejudices and social mold. However, Wildlife gives us a vivid reminder of that society where women were trapped in the role of housewives while men were under terrible pressure to provide economically for their entire family. Gyllenhaal and Mulligan provide credibility and a magnetic intensity to these characters suffocating in post-war America. With his film, Paul Dano demonstrates that he is one of the best new directors to follow. Without a doubt, one of the best feature films of this edition.
2018: Critics Choice Awards: Best Young Actor/Actress
2018: Independent Spirit Awards: Nominated for Best First Feature, Cinematography and Female Lead
2018: Sundance Film Festival
Runtime: 104 min
Direction: Paul Dano
Screenplay: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
Cinematography: Diego García
OST: David Lang
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould