"a delicate family drama about sacrifices in an America that is far from being the dream everyone aspire to live"

Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Wildlife analyses a family’s dynamics during trying times through the point of view of a teenage boy. 

Set in Montana in the 1960s, the film follows the Brinson family settling in the small town of Great Falls. The apparent calm is, however, immediately broken when Jerry loses his job at the golf course and can’t seem to find anything else that he deems good for him.

His desperation brings him to volunteer as a firefighter to help with the wild fire spreading at the boarders. His wife Jeanette doesn’t take the news all too well, and, after taking the reins of the family’s finances with a job as a swimming instructor, filled with resentment and rage, she finds solace in a brief affair with one of her students, without even trying to hide it from her son Joe.

As a first time director, Paul Dano is successful in using the camera as a silent passenger following the protagonists around. By using Joe Brinson’s point of view, the film acquires a touch of innocence. The cinematography reminds me a lot of Dano’s personal characteristics; as a director, his style is a sophisticated, elegant and reserved with a great attention to details.

The 1960s are represented to a T not just with the cinematography but also with the characterisation of each protagonist, so much so that it almost feels like stepping into a time machine to travel back to the past.

Albeit briefly, Jake Gyllenhaal brings to the screen the portrait of a proud man that needs to provide for his family but doesn’t want to compromise. His dissatisfaction is evident while looking for a job after being fired. However, he is not ready to compromise or accept the offer to go back to the Golf Club when he is offered his job back, although his family doesn’t have any money left. His failure to provide for his family pushes him to risk his life since he does not want to see his wife’s disappointment. Gyllenhaal brings to the screen a raw interpretation of a damaged man who can’t keep up with the idea of the family man in the 1960 and rather than facing his demons, prefers to run away from them, hiding behind a courageous façade. 

Carey Mulligan shines as Jeanette Brinson, her performance is committed to showcase Jeanette’s dual personality with honesty. At first she embodies the perfect example of an American mom and a woman in the 60’s. She provides food and shelter for her family. However, the more Jerry falls into despair, the more her independence and frustration comes to the surface. However, even after finding a job and deciding that her marriage is over, without involving Jerry in the process, she still falls under the stereotype of the weak woman who is completely dependent on a man by starting an affair with a much older and wealthier student.

Mulligan navigates through all these different and complex aspects with elegance and extreme talent, transporting the audience to another era.

Among these tragic events, the camera tells the story from Joe’s (Ed Oxenbould) point of view, painting every scene with innocence and bewilderment.

Joe is at the mercy of his parents' decisions. He doesn’t understand his mother’s actions and wants to see his dad come home safely to fix everything. In the midst of it all, he is also trying to become a man of his own and take responsibility for his family while his father is away. Ed Oxenbould’s performance is honest and heartfelt and he makes his character extremely reliable. 

Adaptated from Richard Ford’s homonymous novel, Wildlife is a delicate family drama about sacrifices in an America that is far from being the dream everyone aspire to live.