Starring Bruce Greenwood, Ella Purnell, Brian Geraghty, Ann Dowd, Nolan Gerard Funk
Wildlike is not to be confused with Wild, the film starring Reese Witherspoon, or Into the Wild, which was also filmed in Alaska. Wildlike is the latest indie from Frank Hall Green that takes us into the 49th state, an area seemingly only used for films when the plot requires stunning scenery and a character running from something. Wildlike is the type of film that has a lot to say but chooses to do it visually instead of with words or dialogue. Unfortunately, Green spends too much time with the cinematographer and not enough on the script or with the actors. A very talented cast, including critically acclaimed character actor Greenwood (Thirteen Days), and co-stars Geraghty (The Hurt Locker) and Dowd (Compliance), mostly get only one scene and their talents are not exercised.
Sent to Juneau to live with her uncle (Geraghty) for a while, Mackenzie (Purnell) is still dealing with the loss of her father, and now the rehab and substance abuse of her mother back in Seattle. Her uncle has more on his mind than taking care of his 14-year-old niece as he joins her in bed, unable to keep his hands off. Mackenzie decides she is better off in the wild on her own and to try to make her way back to Washington. Since Juneau is somewhat isolated, it proves difficult for her, but she makes friends with traveler Rene Bartlett (Greenwood) who is experiencing his own sadness. Without revealing her circumstances, Mackenzie manages to gain Rene’s trust and they become exactly the type of friends each one needs.
The visuals in correlation with the musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans really make for a beautiful film.
The visuals, cinematography, and use of location are beautiful and compelling. I think the story boarding and concept of location came before the script, as that seems to be the focus. Green, who also wrote the screenplay, seems to want to say something about the culture and people who visit Alaska. Yet we don’t see or meet anyone who is native to the area in the script. Continuing his visual narrative, Green allows newcomer Purnell to tell us her story, explain her pain and disappointment through her eyes and body language. Down’s character drops in seemingly out of nowhere, and makes a profound impact on the story, injecting life back into the film at that particular moment.
The visuals in correlation with the musical score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans really make for a beautiful film. However, I walked away from this film not understanding or feeling like I really knew any of these characters. The development of everyone is severely underwritten. With the uncle figure especially, we never understand his real motives or why he would even chase her (except that Green wants this to be a very light suspense thriller). Dowd’s character, while spewing profound remarks, seems more like a figment of imagination than someone one might actually run into in Denali National Park. The worst would be Funk (The Canyons) an up-and-coming actor who is almost a stand-in, in that his role is so brief and forgettable.
Visually stunning, but lacks major character development and purpose.