“Wildhood” is the type of hidden gem that the Toronto International Film Festival is praised for finding and shedding light on. The feature film debut of Director Bretten Hannam, exploring Mi’kmaq (First Nations people, indigenous to the areas of Canada) culture in the coming of age story. While it’s easy to get caught up with the big titles and stars of the festival, “Wildhood” is an example of giving emerging, diverse, filmmaking talent a chance to be seen. Although debuting last September, it’s only now getting released on Hulu, which might be the prime spot for a film like this to find its way into the hearts of those who need it the most.

The story follows a rebellious teenager named Link (Phillip Lewitski) struggling with his sexuality and protecting his little brother from an abusive father. They run away from their trailer park life in search of the mother who abandoned them. Their journey leads through back roads and into the path of Mi’kmaq teen Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), rejected by his religious family. The three boys find people along their route who knew Link’s mom and hitchhike their way toward clues of her whereabouts. Of course, what they discover isn’t what they set out looking for, but along the way, maturity, heart break, and at the end, all three wind up stronger individuals more in control of their future.

Hannam’s coming of age story stands firmly on original ground, rich in culture and its exploration of sexuality. It’s equal parts tender, brash, raucous and sensual. It’s an ironically beautiful film that follows teenagers through mud, wilderness and depravity. It highlights culture and customs that often don’t make it into many LGBTQ films to this degree. The performances guided by Hannam do the characters justice, far more than the usual coming of age stereotypes or cheap gay love stories littered throughout most streaming services just to hit a quota.

Lewitski’s performance is the kind to land him future roles if the film gets viewed by the right people. He walks a fine line of anger and sorry that we haven’t seen portrayed on screen since the days of Brad Renfro in films like “The Cure” or “Apt Pupil”. Hannam’s script falls into a few cliches along the way, but for every moment that looks familiar, he offers another that’s surprising and fresh. “Wildhood” is not placating to the family friendly crowd, it’s no “Love Simon”, nor does it attempt shock value. Hunnam takes a no frills approach to life and all it’s dirty complexities.

Final Thought

Hannam’s coming of age story stands firmly on original ground, rich in culture and its exploration of sexuality


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