2018 was a good year for actors making their directorial debuts with Jonah Hill making a mark with Mid90s and the second such debut Wildlife from Paul Dano, another great actor. To be honest, I was a little skeptical about this film. It felt like one of those that had a great trailer but that the film was not going to match up to it.
Having seen it, I can say that the film has certainly surpassed my expectations. It is so much more than what the trailer gives away. Although there’s not enough of Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan more than makes up for it with an outstanding performance. It is one that has a combination of anger, frustration and confusion and can be seen as a parallel to her son’s journey.
Her response to a family situation may not be something that you agree with but truth be told, life is often quite complicated and sometimes the response may be unexpected. She is great at playing the torment that she feels between what she is doing and what others want her to do.
The Surprise Package
While the focus looks like it will be on the parents, it is the treatment of the son’s character that makes the difference here. Instead of it being two adults dealing with problems, it becomes a film about a young boy’s experience of dealing with a really difficult time in his life. Ed Oxenbould looks like such a seasoned actor at this young age. As someone who is not fully able to comprehend the emotions he is going through, the confusion, anger and frustration comes through in his acting in a convincing manner.
The screenplay which was written by director Paul Dano and his wife Zoe Kazan translates the novel by Richard Ford to the screen with a sense of empathy and a lack of judgement. Dano had first thought of using a voice-over but deciding against it was a good decision. If there was someone narrating, it would have at some level felt that the characters and especially that of Mulligan was being judged.
Given the quality of Wildlife, I am happy to learn that Paul Dano has intentions of directing another film based on a family. If the result is anywhere near as good as this, it is going to be a treat to watch. I think you should give this film a try for it has one of the best acting performances of 2018 and also it is a good film.
Until next time, bye.