Director: Paul Dano
Writers: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp
When young Joe asks his mother Jeanette what happens to the wild animals during a forest fire, she responds matter-of-factly that they adapt, and that it’s not worth crying over. This sums up actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Wildlife, based off the novel by Richard Ford.
Anchored by three fantastic performances (particularly from Carey Mulligan who I haven’t seen a lot of lately), this slow burn drama is about a family falling apart in the 60s after Jake Gyllenhaal’s directionless Jerry loses his job and decides to go volunteer to fight a Montana forest fire. His wife Jeanette isn’t going to wait around for him to return, even if it means subjecting their teenage son Joe to her new very social lifestyle.
It’s definitely a harsh slice of reality, and could very easily be written off as depressing, but the humanity that shines through these performances really helps pull you through. Watching Joe (Ed Oxenbould) realize that his parents aren’t the perfect adults he once thought they were (and who is?) is at times beautiful, at times difficult… Sometimes even darkly funny… But always interesting. Paul Dano directs with a very steady style, utilizing long shots that stay with the uncomfortable moments long after another movie might have turned away.