[Movie Review] Wildlife (2018)

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USA | Drama | PG-13 | Director: Paul Dano | Writers: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan | Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould | English | 105 minutes


How can a hero at the same time be so despised, right? It is one of the wonderful contradictions one can think of after watching the film. The authentic value behind it is that we can never judge someone so quick. After all, a hero maintains a role somewhere else that does not constantly involve in putting someone else first.

Someone has to do something when a crisis happens, and it certainly can be anyone. Sets in 1960, Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) and Joe (Ed Oxenbould) have to continuously follow wherever Jerry Brison (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes. The misguidance starts when Jerry lays his life in Montana and abruptly faces a dismissal as a golf pro at a country club. Having experienced failures at several jobs which results in being nomads traveling to several cities undecidedly, Jeannette is not overly terrified about the fact that he just got fired.

Being an unambitious worker as Jerry is, he doesn’t start finding new jobs right away, but instead intentionally kills time by sleeping in his car and promptly gains interest in listening news about forest fires. After some time, he receives a phone call for an offer of his old job position, but he turned it down due to feeding his pride. Experiencing the urge to stress the fact that her husband is unemployed, Jeannette tries to ease up the situation and finds work. Albeit her efforts supposedly seen as a serious alarm for Jerry to settle in a new job, it still isn’t worth a dime.

Jerry one-sidedly decides to grasp the opportunity contributing as one of the local firefighters with an excuse of the scarcity regarding the number of firefighters in which the city currently needs to eradicate the massive fire. Left on her own now, Jeannette begins to redeem the time she lost all these years being on restraint with the unsettling job of her husband, in which she proclaims to 'always find his way'. She embarks on her own path and no longer could care about her son (who is not as innocent, by the way) giving up his adolescent years to be introduced to employment as an assistant at a local photography studio to financially support the family.

Paul Dano reveals its debut film clean, solid, and thematic. He simplifies the idea that illustrates a connection between wildlife and wildfire to be acceptable. Not overmuch of a hassle, he delivers it smooth and slow, but lacking tension. Just like how well-mannered 14-year-old Joe is consistently portrayed from the outside (although heartbroken inside), the wildfire seems to burn the depression and what’s left of the audience is the feeling of discomfort – though not up to the stage of having the urge to dig how great a wildfire can impact on. Clearly, the question of a source to this rather inexplicit feeling of uneasiness traces back to the mood the film successfully leaves.

Its aesthetic feel remains through this melodrama, conveying an impression of a neat color palette, flourishing its neutral base on the less-saturated colors. Following a troubled family, a screenplay is usually the major key role, which has yet to fit in the ‘touching’ category in this case. It’s like consuming too many drugs based on prescriptions, really, the written scenario is somewhat to blame. What’s helping is Mulligan’s indulging performance through her long soliloquy. Oxenbould sure is a charm and does not disappoint as depicting the perfect medium for the audience to empathize for. Wildlife has its own charm for its cinematography and background music, but it is not bold enough to form a lasting scar.


Review written by: Clara Anastasia

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