After losing her mother in a car crash, 17-year-old Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) is sent to live with her estranged aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and her three adult sons. Ida is welcomed into the fold and all seems well. But there’s something rotten in the air and Ida soon learns why she was shielded from this part of the family growing up. A chill grows in the atmosphere and Ida is left asking herself how far her loyalty goes.
Wildland, the debut feature from director Jeanette Nordahl, is an evocative portrait of the darker side of family. The first introduction to Bodil and her sons is a pleasant one; they’re warm and radiate a charismatic charm that assures Ida she’s safe in their company. Suspicions are just as quickly raised about the kind of people they are: one of the boys hands Bodil a brown envelope full of money and informs her that he injured himself breaking a window; later, she casually mentions lending money to someone before we hear her making suggestive phone calls. It’s never a secret what line of work the family are in, but the tension comes from a gradual tightening of the atmosphere as Ida becomes more aware of what’s going on.
At that point things go dramatically wrong and the friendly dynamic switches to something more sinister. Ida is trapped in a moral quandary with no obvious way out. The chill in the air brings with it a whole new perspective on the story’s characters, but none is more chilling than Knudsen’s Bodil, whose demeanour shifts from amicable to vicious. There’s no way of predicting how she’ll react to something, and it’s terrifying.
Nordahl gives many convincing arguments for Ida to reach out for the lifeline she’s offered at the midway point, which makes it somewhat baffling when she chooses a different solution with simply no logical narrative reasoning behind it. Wildland’s exploration of abuse becomes consequently a lot shallower. An out-of-nowhere ending is also likely to divide the film’s audience – it certainly leaves an impact, but it’s dubious whether it adds anything other than shock value.
Wildland is released in select cinemas on 13th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Wildland here: