In Paul Dano’s evocative and emotional directorial debut, 14-year-old Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is the only child of Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal)—a housewife and a golf pro--in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job—and his sense of purpose—he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Suddenly forced into the role of an adult, Joe witnesses his mother's struggle as she tries to keep her head above water.
Cinematographer Diego Garcia's clean aesthetic, the film's authentic period design, and Dano's precise, mannered direction ground the film in time and place, bringing focus to the characters. Featuring powerful performances from Mulligan, in what is perhaps her meatiest role to date, Gyllenhaal, and Oxenbould, WILDLIFE—based on Richard Ford's 1990 novel with screenplay by Zoe Kazan (also Executive Producer)—paints a portrait of a family and an America ready to explode.
“This handsomely made, meticulously acted period picture is an impressive directorial debut for Paul Dano—and a triumph for its production designer Akin McKenzie and cinematographer Diego Garcia, who create some soberly beautiful tableaux of postwar American life… It’s an extremely watchable movie, beautifully and even luxuriously appointed in its austere evocation of smalltown America.” —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian “Families are built upon two things: blood and belief. They can get by on the strength of one or the other (to have both is something of a luxury), but when the latter starts to wither, the former can only do so much to save it. This strange alchemy—the science responsible for so many American lives—percolates inside every frame of Paul Dano’s remarkable WILDLIFE, a tender, gorgeous, and exquisitely understated drama about a family that loses its faith in itself.” —David Ehrlich, IndieWire
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