Director: Frank Hall Green | 104 minutes | adventure, drama, thriller | Actors: Ella Purnell, Bruce Greenwood, Nolan Gerard Funk, Brian Geraghty, Diane Farr, Joshua Leonard, Ann Dowd, Russell Josh Peterson, Erin Lindsay King, Bradford James Jackson, Skadi, Erick Robertson, Ching Tseng, Pamela R. Klein, Teddy Kyle Smith, Joe Tapangco, Tom Okamoto, Mark Cirnigliaro, Elias Christeas, Frank Palmer
“Wildlike” is the second feature by Frank Hall Green, who wrote, produced and directed the work. The story follows fourteen-year-old Mackenzie (Ella Purnell), who is temporarily housed with her uncle (Brian Geraghty) by her grieving mother a year after her father’s death. But he’s definitely not a parental figure, and Mackenzie flees and tries to make her way back to Seattle. In doing so, she stumbles upon hiker Rene Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood), who is not so keen on the company of a moody teenager on his trek through the Alaskan wilderness. The girl persists, however, and a special friendship grows between the two.
After the fast-paced events of the release, there is an opportunity for some rest and development in the second act of “Wildlike”. Alaska’s unspoiled nature provides beautiful atmospheric images, which makes the high number of hiking scenes welcome. The two main characters literally seek out space and seclusion in nature, and dialogue is sparse. It is a big plus that Green gives the duo so much time, allowing the course of their relationship to unfold naturally. Bruce Greenwood’s casting was also an excellent choice; the American actor manages to capture a world of emotion in a single taciturn glance. Despite her previously proven talent, the young Purnell lags a bit behind, because in terms of emotional reach she just does not get far enough to fully convince. In addition, she gives her character a number of mannerisms that are so exaggerated that it becomes a bit artificial. However, it is commendable that she manages to combine the ambiguity of an innocent child and the villainous homeless youth, as well as the threshold from girl to woman on which Mackenzie stumbles. Overall, the two put on a strong performance that takes the film to a higher level.
That the film has won 42 awards is partly due to the fact that “Wildlike” has visited just about every festival in the United States. However, it will also have been a reward for the instinctive way in which it deals with nasty matters such as death, mourning, and abuse. These subjects are neither shunned nor spoken – a wonderful combination that ensures that the film is not weighed down by the heavy shadow that such traumatic events can cast.
“Wildlike” discusses tricky topics without falling into a pit of sadness and drama. It highlights the dark as well as the beautiful sides of man, and the danger and at the same time beauty that can hide behind new contacts. Although the playing time is long, the movie doesn’t feel like such and after the end you wish there was more left to watch.