Wildlife - film review (4 out of 5)

A director's debut is always an exciting project - not just for the person concerned but also for the audience.

Saturday, 24th November 2018, 8:52 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 4:53 pm

We could be witnessing the start of a promising career that will provide intriguing projects in years to come.

And while Paul Dano is no stranger to the big screen as an actor (12 Years A Slave, Ruby Sparks, Swiss Army Man) this is his first time behind the camera.

And what a promising start it is!

Wildlife is a low budget affair that relies entirely on the small group of actors and the direction to come up with the goods.

It’s based on a book by Richard Ford, with Dano helping with the screenplay and one of the stars, Jake Gyllenhaal, a producer.

A synopsis of the film is very simple - Ed Oxenbould plays teenager Joe Brinson whose parents’ marriage is falling apart.

When his dad Jerry (Gyllenhaal) goes off to fight forest fires in Montana for the summer his mother Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) is left to question her future.

Sounds simple, and it could have been a rather mushy drama.

However, Mulligan pulls out all the stops for this role as the confused and frustrated mother.

Gyllenhaal takes a slightly more back-seat part but is nonetheless compelling when on screen.

And young Oxenbould is quite outstanding. We see all the action through his eyes, so he’s on screen virtually the whole time.

The Aussie actor already has a decent CV, including another main role in the 2015 excellent horror film The Visit.

But pulling all the strings together is Dano and I was very impressed.

I liked the static shots where the action moves in and out of the camera line and he has no fear in big close-ups.

Wildlife isn’t a major drama that follows the obvious plotlines and has a neat ending.

It’s a simple tale of a young man witnessing complicated emotions that he has to come to terms with.

So, an impressive start for Dano and I’ll be eagerly looking out for more to come.

Film details: Wildlife (12A) 105mins

Director: Paul Dano

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol