Wildlife: Film Review

I loved Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan‘s previous joint effort Ruby Sparks so I had high hopes for Wildlife, which is Dano’s directorial debut starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is an assured debut which looked beautiful and had some great ideas, but it was a bit too slow for my tastes.

In a nutshell, the events in the film are seen through the eyes of Joe (Ed Oxenbould) who is caught in the middle of his parents Jeanette and Jerry (Mulligan and Gyllenhaal) after their marriage hit the rocks when Jerry temporarily abandons them for a job and Jeanette responds by embarking on an affair.

Wildlife reeeeally takes its time in the beginning and it was so slow and kinda dull that I switched off, until dramatic things actually happened, which made me sit up and pay attention. Some people may have got to the stage of not caring by that point but I was hooked and riveted, because it takes crazy, unexpected turns that I never could have predicted from the outset, given its quietness and meandering pace.

Mulligan’s character is not likeable in the slightest; she puts her own needs before her child’s and does things in front of him that no parent should do, but this is the type of reckless stuff we have seen male characters do for years, so it was cool to see it flipped and examine how differently we view the behaviours when coming from a woman than a man.

I have been a fan of Mulligan for years as I think she’s a truly gifted actress and she was equally impressive here as the conflicted mother. Gyllenhaal sometimes went to the OTT shouty school of acting that I’m not into but his character was sympathetic, albeit slightly lazy, and you felt sorry for him a tiny bit. Joe was a pretty reticent guy which was infuriating sometimes but Oxenbould did a fine job conveying his character’s confusion with his eyes.

Wildlife really excels towards the end when it becomes far more exciting, unpredictable and dramatic. I’m glad because I was worried that it would be that slow and quiet the whole way through and I would struggle to concentrate.

This is also Dano’s first writing effort, with the help his real-life partner Kazan, and the screenplay is decent, particularly in the last half. It could have done with tightening up in the beginning. Dano hasn’t really put his own unique stamp on the movie but it is very aesthetically pleasing, addresses big themes and how women are treated differently to men. I’m intrigued to see what he does next.

In selected cinemas from Friday 9th November 

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