Starring Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone
SXSW ended on a good note for me with Alex & Andrew Smith’s new film Walking Out. Shot completely outdoors in the wilds of Montana. This is the second film at the festival, filmed in Montana starring Bill Pullman (The Ballad of Lefty Brown). Walking Out isn’t an action film, despite it’s thrilling subject matter. It’s a more intimate look at a father/son relationship as they trek deep into the wintry mountains hunting moose. The cinematography is striking as we get both aerial shots and forced perspective shots showing these tiny figures alone in the wilderness. It’s no Revenant, but the Smith brothers manage to devise an effective coming of age story with a powerful ending that’s both self-reflective and poignant. It’s some of the best work from both Bomer (Magic Mike XXL) and Wiggins (Mean Dreams).
David (Wiggins) has just flown into Montana for the yearly visit with his father Cal (Bomer). For one week, the outside world stops, electronics don’t work, and his life back in Texas stands still as he hunts with dad. “We are not going home until you get your first bird,” Cal instructs. David doesn’t want to be there and couldn’t be more different from his father who forces both hunting and responsibility. The two wake early the next morning, setting out for big game hunting, deep in the mountains during winter. Heavy snow, injuries and a grizzly bear force David to aid his father as they try to make their way back to the truck. Cal begins to reminisce about his own father (Pullman) and their experience hunting that turned him so bitter.
Powerful film about fathers and sons in the modern world learning to survive in the wild.
The devastatingly beautiful shots of Montana almost feel like a trick to lure the audience into the film. It’s works every time and Montana, as it should, becomes the main character in the film. Some audiences might find this film slow, but it’s a heavy helping of character development all the way through. We get to know both men very well by the time tragedy strikes. Wiggins keeps getting cast in these coming of age stories because of his age and ability to represent innocence and longing on screen. Contrasted with his work on Hellion or Max, this is his most physical role. In many of the scenes the 18-year-old scrawny Texan must carry Bomer (also from Texas) on his back. The young actor assured me in an interview, there wasn’t a stunt double for either. It’s an element of the film that feels as real as it looks, unlike a bear attack could use some reshooting.
The musical score here often fails the emotional build up in the story. The string instrumental score isn’t dramatic enough for the situation. The script briefly explores David’s disinterest in his father’s sport, (he doesn’t yet have the courage to tell him no), even his singularly lonely lifestyle. “You are so alone up here, why don’t you get a dog,” he questions. Cal’s reply is a powerful one, because he doesn’t want to give so much love to something that won’t be around that long. The flashbacks really help both the audience and David understand why his father is the way he is. “When you have a son, you will want him to know you badly you will cry,” Cal admits. Walking Out is a powerful film about fathers and sons in the modern world learning to survive in the wild.
A compelling story of survival and coming of age in the most-dire circumstances.