Young Mackenzie’s father dies so her basket-case of a mother sends her up to Alaska to live with her uncle. When that turns out to be the sort of wise decision you’d expect from a drug addict mother, Mackenzie ends up running away. Sure, you’ve seen it a million times before, but this time it’s Alaska!
And that matters.
In this case, Mackenzie ends up encountering and re-encountering Rene Bartlett, a lone hiker who finds he has a problem when this unruly teenager latches on to him. So what we have here, in a manner of speaking, is a road picture. But with bears.
Written and directed by Frank Hall Green (in his sophomore feature, assuming 2009’s Once a Child of God is a real thing), Wildlike is a nice little film that touches on some serious subjects without going very deeply into any of them.
I have mixed feelings about the ending. The movie sets up a…something…but then delivers…nothing. But without straying into lurid pulp resolutions—and this movie tries hard to be realistic—it’s hard to know what the something really could’ve been, given the characters as we’ve come to know them over the past 90 minutes.
Fine acting from veteran Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek Into Darkness, Flight, The Place Beyond The Pines) as the guy Mackenzie latches onto in desperation, Brian Geraghty (also from Flight) as creepy Uncle Uncle, and relative newcomer Ella Purnell, who previously has played younger versions of older people like Teen Maleficent (in Maleficent) and Young Ruth in Never Let Me Go. Greenwood and Purnell basically have to carry the movie and they do well.
The writing is pretty good, too: Green clearly knows how pedophiles work and the interaction between Mackenzie and Uncle have a disturbing verisimilitude to them.
One thing that killed me, though, was the photography. Alaska is arguably the most beautiful state in the country, and there is occasionally a well-framed shot with some nice color. More than occasionally, the set up is there: Some natural beauty just waiting to be put on screen. But the quality is just crap. It’s blurry if there’s any motion, the colors are almost always washed out, the depth isn’t there. I actually began to wince about 2/3rds into the film.
The Boy didn’t really notice, though. And we both liked it. It’s worth checking out.