- Katherine McLaughlin
- 22 May 2018
Cannes 2018: Carey Mulligan dazzles in Paul Dano's impressive directorial debut
Actor Paul Dano has collaborated with a fine array of directors, including Paul Thomas Anderson, Ang Lee, Kelly Reichardt and Denis Villeneuve, and it appears he's been taking notes as he delivers an impressive directorial debut with this adaptation of Richard Ford's 1990 novel. Co-written with Zoe Kazan (writer of Ruby Sparks and Dano's partner), Wildlife is a haunting and elegantly handled portrait of blue-collar American family life in an era where gender inequality had major sway on income and decision-making.
Set in Buffalo, Montana in 1960, 14-year-old Joe (Ed Oxenbould) watches his parent's blissful marriage dissolve before his eyes after they encounter money troubles. Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job at the golf club for being too personable with the clients and his bull-headed male pride stops him from taking it back after they admit they've made a mistake. Instead, he runs away to fight a wildfire spreading across the forest. This sends his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) into a tailspin, as she battles with familial responsibilities and her identity. Joe comes of age amidst the realisation that his parents are flawed human beings, and the film nails his sense of confusion and tumultuous inner-life, telling the story from his perspective.
Dano guides all his actors to great performances but Mulligan turns in what may be her best to date, playing a woman on the edge. Her transformation from wholesome housewife to desperate drunk is fiery and mesmerising. Jeanette goes through many stages of crisis – visiting her youth with fragile despair and dunking her feet into a frantic, ill-advised affair with a wealthy man. Rather than absorbing itself in Jerry's brooding masculinity, Dano shifts the film's gaze to a woman striving for independence and what that means to her teenage son. The final shot is non-judgemental perfection.
Screened as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2018. General release from Fri 9 Nov.