Title – Wildlife (2018)
Director – Paul Dano (feature debut)
Cast – Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp
Plot – Teenage boy Joe Brinson (Oxenbould) must come to terms with his mum Jeanette (Mulligan) and dad’s Jerry (Gyllenhaal) increasingly complicated marriage, as the two begin to face increasingly difficult obstacles to remain together.
“Well, ain’t this a wild life son?”
Review by Eddie on 25/02/2019
When you’ve worked with such esteemed directors like Paul Thomas Anderson, Denis Villeneuve, Steve McQueen, Spike Jonze and Ang Lee, it’s only natural that you’d learn a thing or two about how to make a decent feature film.
Graduating from just a presence in front of the camera, renowned character actor Paul Dano makes the leap to the director’s chair with his adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel Wildlife, a solemn and sharply observed tale of a marriage between Carey Mulligan’s stay at home mother Jeanette Brinson and her out of work husband Jerry (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) breaking down around Ed Oxenbould’s teenage boy Joe.
It’s exactly the type of film you’d expect Dano to be interested in, having in the past shown a keenness to play characters that are humanly drawn and openly flawed, from There Will Be Blood’s chameleon like Eli Sunday through to Little Miss Sunshine’s Dwayne, and when teaming up with his real-life partner and writing compatriot Zoe Kazan, Wildlife is very much a film concerned mainly with its characters as we follow them around their mundane lives that are slowly but steadily closing in around them.
Wildlife isn’t the type of film filled with big moments, there’s barely any if even one “big” showdown like moment and its rather stoic in nature, even if the film is lensed and constructed like a well-polished machine and its likely why Dano’s film has found itself a relative no-show at this year’s awards circus despite it featuring three noteworthy lead performances.
Backed in by a commanding Carey Mulligan performance, one that is equal to her work in An Education and Shame, Wildlife very much showcases Dano’s skill with handling his performers.
Complementing Mulligan beautifully is another solid turn from young Australian actor Oxenbould (whose created quite the career for himself in Hollywood over these last few years) and another sharply detailed turn from an underused Gyllenhaal, whose quietly heartbreaking as the lost Jerry, a man whose struggling to find his place in the world and come to terms with lost dreams and hopes.
Within this solid three pronged ensemble there’s enough to keep Wildlife steadily ticking on but there is a sense that despite its solid examination of a relationship breakdown and a coming of age expose, there’s not a lot of meat on the bones of this tale and while there’s emotion to be mined here thanks to the actors work, Wildlife is a relatively cold and forgettable affair, even if there’s nothing particularly wrong with its execution.
Had Dano somehow managed to draw more out of this simplistic narrative, Wildlife would’ve been one of the cream of the crop of 2018 releases and a far more memorable experience overall outside of its noteworthy performances.
Final Say –
An extremely adept first feature from Dano who has now proven to be more than just a solid actor, Wildlife is a fine showcase for its main cast but a film that never does enough to standout in its own right, making it a watchable but rather forgettable relationship drama that we’ve seen done countless times before.
3 family photos out of 5