25 September, 2015

"Wildlike" Review (***)

Ella Purnell and Bruce Greenwood star in "Wildlike."

Frank Hall Green’s quiet, low-budget drama, "Wildlike," is a modest story of an unlikely kinship between a young and volatile Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) and an experienced and haggard Rene (Bruce Greenwood). Mackenzie, still reeling from the loss of her father, is forced to stay with her uncle, played by the doe-eyed Brian Geraghty, at his home in Alaska. We quickly learn he’s a creep and he’s abusive, and that’s all we know and really all we need to know. She leaves, and rightfully so, and that propels the rest of the film into action.

Mackenzie soon meets Rene, a practiced hiker caught in weeds of his own grief. They become an unlikely pair, and the dynamic dances between platonic, protective, and subtly sexual. The film is their story; it’s them coming to terms with themselves and with each other and with the hands they’ve been dealt in this life. It’s not a story I loved—it felt tired to me, that the characters were exhausted by the story they’re living. What I did love: the title. It’s rich and full without being too sharp. She’s not fully animal but she’s proven she may belong in the Alaskan frontier. She’s not quite wild, but she’s wildlike. I adore that idea. It’s noncommittal and let’s Mackenzie off the hook; and to me, that felt honest and sincere. I also loved that more than anything this film was an ode to Alaska—to nature’s faithfulness to what’s true and honest and beautiful, to its healing powers and to its overwhelming beauty. There were colors so pure it almost hurt your eyes to look at them, and that’s a sensation I find true to what you might find in a place that’s totally wild.

3 out of 5 stars.

"Wildlike" kicked off a long ride on the Georgia film festival circuit last October at the Savannah Film Festival. In March, Green brought the film back to his hometown for the Atlanta Film Festival, then the film played the Macon Film Festival (July) and the Rome International Film Festival (September). "Wildlike" will open at the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta this Friday, September 25th.

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