Saturday, December 19, 2020


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2018
Director: Paul Dano
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Camp, Zoe Margaret Colletti, Darryl Cox, Travis W Bruyer
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Paul Dano, the great actor who has carved an eclectic career for himself with participations in films of different scales (including Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood", Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" and James Mangold's "Knight and Day" to name but a few), has managed to create an arresting and accomplished feature with his directorial debut. Adapting a book from author Richard Ford (with his writing partner, actress/writer Zoe Kazan), the feature takes place in 1960, and follows the story of Joe, a young boy of 14 who is currently living with his parents in Montana. He has moved around a lot, due to his father's pursuits of different job opportunities across the country. His father Jerry works as a golf pro in a local country club, until he is suddenly fired, something that causes some tensions in the household. His mom Jean, in order to make ends meet, decides to take a part-time job as a swimming instructor at the YMCA, whereas Jerry becomes increasingly depressed. Wanting to escape the sense of failure, Jerry decides to take a job as a firefighter, even if it pays poorly, and very much something that both Joe and Jean voice their discontent about. As Jerry leaves, Jean's longing for a better life and other options for herself grow louder, something that is further put to a test when she meets Warren Miller, a recently separated man. Warren's attention and stability, force Jean to examine her own life and where she wants to be moving forward, something that has an impact on the family dynamics.
There's a quiet assuredness to "Wildlife" that is the more surprising considering that this is Paul Dano's debut feature. The film manages to capture its central characters progressively, drawing the family interactions firstly in very broad strokes, and as the film progresses, revealing the different layers which define the life of that household. In particular, the film manages to expose the longing and quiet despair Jean experiences, in living a life that is not fully realized according to her expectations. As Jerry leaves, Jean's needs become all the more apparent, and as she seeks paths for her personal fulfillment, she eventually realizes that the change needs to be more radical and may cost more than she anticipated. It's a film that allow for the characters to slowly understand the evolution of their own selves, and the paths that they will eventually trail. In particular, it allows for Carey Mulligan to have a richly layered performance, one that marries a sense of hope, with disappointment, longing and fear, not only for herself, but also for her child. It's a truly beautiful performance, though the remainder of the cast is equally fantastic, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Camp and Ed Oxenbould all creating indelible characters. The cinematography from Diego Garcia is beautiful as is the score from David Lang. A wonderful debut in storytelling from a very talented performer.