Wildlike was the closing film of 2015’s Indy Film Fest on July 25th. You can find more of ObsessiveViewer.com’s coverage of the festival here.
Following the death of her father, troubled teenager Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) is sent to Juneau, Alaska to stay with her uncle (Brian Geraghty) while her mother works out some of her own issues. When her uncle’s home proves not to be safe for Mackenzie, she goes on the run. While trying to survive on her own and evading detection, she crosses paths with Rene Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood), a man with his own troubles on a private quest for peace.
Wildlike was written and directed by Frank Hall Green and utilizes the Alaskan wilderness to create a gorgeous backdrop for the characters to explore while their bond grows. Rene is a reluctant guide turned father figure once Mackenzie sneaks her way onto his hiking itinerary. Through the course of the movie, they help each other deal with their individual pain in unexpected and even unintentional ways.
Before Mackenzie meets Rene however, her time spent with her uncle is unsettling. The action that causes her to run away comes suddenly and puts the viewer in an uncomfortable place of empathetic unease and rage. Intermittently throughout the movie Mackenzie has contact with her uncle. The dialogue delivered by Brian Geraghty’s chillingly calm voice feels tragically authentic to the situation they are in.
Wildlike tasks young star Ella Purnell with the extremely difficult job of communicating an internalized emotional trauma. Purnell gives a heartbreaking and honest performance as Mackenzie struggles to work through what has happened to her. Her sense of loneliness in her confused search for comfort through personal contact speaks volumes about her damaged emotional state.
Bruce Greenwood is well suited as a man who reluctantly becomes the one positive force in Mackenzie’s life. His irritation leads to attempts to rid himself of her, but he doesn’t attempt to outright abandon her. His actions follow the logical progression of a compassionate man in an unsavory position. As Rene slowly realizes that Mackenzie’s troubles are the result of a trauma, he rises to the role of caregiver. Greenwood’s portrayal of Rene is painted by the character’s own pain after having lost his wife. This gives Rene the impetus to act when Mackenzie is in danger.
Wildlike stumbles a bit in its ending. By setting up a strong dynamic between its two central characters, the script strongly establishes what is at stake for both of them. However, the movie ends on a note that feels more like an incomplete thought rather than narrative ambiguity. It left me slightly dissatisfied with the journey I thought the movie was taking me on. We get a good resolution to the two characters, but the open-ended nature of where one of them ends up made me confused and wanting more.
Despite this shortcoming, Wildlike is a well-constructed and at times upsetting movie. It takes an honest approach in telling its story of a girl lost in the aftershock of an abhorrent betrayal finding much needed guidance, patience, and help in a reluctant yet compassionate man struggling with loss of his own. Beautifully shot on location in Alaska, Wildlike is a strong rumination on what it means to find help from an unlikely place. Even though it lacked a certain payoff for me, it was still an overall satisfying experience.
According to the movie’s Twitter account, Wildlike will be in theaters in September 25th.
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