Film Review: Wildlike

August 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Released: October 2015; Feature, Drama; Written and Directed by: Frank Hall Green; With: Bruce Greenwood, Ella Purnell, Brian Geraghty

Mackenzie (Ella Purnell), the young woman at the heart of Wildlike, is sent by her troubled mama to spend some time with her Uncle (Brian Geraghty) in his home in Juneau, Alaska while mom gets clean. Mackenzie finds herself in a bind, placed there by Uncle, and opts to take her show on the road, heading back to Seattle to find her mother. And thus the (very simple but totally compelling) premise of Wildlike is born.

While Mackenzie, all puffed lips and petulance, eventually finds herself in the quasi-care of silent-yet-kind drifter “Bart” (Bruce Greenwood, taking this movie from an 8 to a 10, like he typically does), the movie isn’t about what he, specifically, does for Mackenzie, it’s about the development of a healthy relationship. Between Mackenzie and a man who provides her with care-sans-sex. Between Mackenzie and Alaska, a vast expanse that is initially the chasm between she and her mother, but becomes a refuge. Between Mackenzie and herself, what she’s capable of, and her growth, who she is by the end of the film.

This movie is primarily about two elements: performance and place. It is supported fully by a lonesome (yet increasingly playful, as the relationship between Mackenzie and Bart grows) score, an ostensibly filtered lens, and an absorbing story. But, at its root, it sits firmly on the backs of its stars and in its own backyard.

Mackenzie belongs to Purnell, sullen and damaged, grumpy and kohl-rimmed. And then not. She’s a 14-year old girl who’s been forced to grow up painfully quickly and her moments of fear and glee bookend her sustained brooding. She’s brilliant to watch and she and Greenwood have a lovely chemistry, making a father-daughter relationship seemingly out of thin air and allowing it to swell over the course of the movie. Geraghty is also fantastic, a manipulative, cunning villain who spends most of his performance worried and frantic, the real danger in him sitting just below the surface. Greenwood is a dream. This movie has potential and grace, but in his hands, it’s realized.

Alaska, a true fourth character, is this movie’s home. It’s representative of every moment of relief, every second of joy, doubt, fear, and anxiety. It borders, it backdrops, it’s an enormous, immersive family and a stumbling block full of bears and dampness. It’s perfect and this movie is a love letter.

See this movie. See it for all of the things I’ve mentioned here, but also for its incredibly satisfying ending (think Spielberg, not Tarantino). You will not be sorry. Happy viewing!

  • Leah Gehlsen
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