Actor Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with tender family drama Wildlife, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. The feature opened the Critics’ Week sidebar of the 71st Cannes Film Festival, a section dedicated to discovering new talent by selecting first and second films for participation. Dano’s first movie, while relatively subdued, is a subtle expression of the painful experience of a young boy having to grow up a little too soon in the wake of his parents’ disintegrating marriage.
It’s the 60s in Montana and the Brinsons seem like the perfect all-American family. Father Jerry (Gyllenhaal) has a job at the local golf course and encourages his son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) to play football – despite the boy’s obvious athletic inabilities – and his wife Jeanette (Mulligan) to stay home and be, well, a homemaker. A rapid deterioration is set in motion when Jerry loses his job and, out of pride, refuses to earn a living doing anything he considers beneath him. Feeling the encroaching urgency brought on by financial constraints, Jeanette takes a position at the local YMCA and even Joe finds an after school gig at a photography studio, pushing his dad over the edge in his struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Finally, Jerry leaves to take a low-paying post fighting a forest fire and, fearing he’ll never return, his wife struggles to reinvent herself for the sake of survival.
It’s an equally touching and devastating experience to witness Joe watching his mother suffer. Mulligan seamlessly glides through the emotional roller coaster that Jeanette rides as she fights to keep her head above water, at times crumbling under the feelings of abandonment and at others attempting – sometimes in vain – to be the tough girl and forge her way without him. Her son bears witness to all of her mistakes and misgivings, and is forced into the position of being the one who keeps it together. In the heartbreaking final moment, Joe invites his parents, both of whom have returned from their time away, to take a portrait together to remember the happy moment that is the reunification of the family unit – even if it’s just for the moment.
Although beautiful in sentiment and soul, Wildlife remains somewhat contained. Make no mistake, this is a film about fire and rage and betrayal and suffering, yet those emotions are not fully released and explored. The fire is stifled before it really gets to burn.
Wildlife does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.