Directed by first-time filmmaker Paul Dano who is best known as a critically acclaimed actor in such films as 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine and 2007’s There Will Be Blood, Wildlife is a slow burn emotionally subdued independent drama revolving around a dysfunctional marriage and is marked by terrific acting performances from the leads. Beautifully set in the 1960s in the small town of Great Falls, Montana, the film follows a young married couple Jeannette, played by the Oscar-nominated British actress Carey Mulligan, and Jerry Brinson, played by the Oscar-nominated American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who are undergoing extreme marital difficulties after Jerry gets fired from his job as a golf pro. Much of the film is from the eyes of their fourteen-year-old son Joe, played by newcomer Ed Oxenbould, who is witnessing the disintegration of his parents’ marriage as he is coming of age himself in a new community trying to make his own friends. Metaphorically representing the slowly faltering marriage, a large looming wildfire is encroaching on the town, which forces Jerry to haphazardly decide to become a firefighter fighting the large fire in the open wilderness of Montana. As he is away from the family during an extended time, the increasingly restless Jeannette rebelliously decides to have her own life even at the peril of neglecting her son. Consequently, she begins a romantic relationship with a wealthy and much older car dealer named Warren Miller, played by Emmy Award-nominated actor Bill Camp, and rather brazenly reveals her extramarital affair to the confused Joe. To a rather remarkable degree, the first-time director deftly crafts an intimate glimpse into a disintegrating marriage that has profound effects on the child, all set against the backdrop of the open spaces of Montana in which wildlife and wildfires are as destructive as the flawed relationships depicted in the film. The movie takes a careful route that details what it must feel like to be in a slowly dying marriage in which the separation evolves over time and does not occur in drastic fashion, similar to what it must be like be in real life. Overall, I found it to be the ultimate actors’ film that allows the extremely talented actors to shine in a well-crafted drama that is neither over-the-top or sensational; the top-notch performances allow the filmmaker to portray the tragic and unavoidable consequences of being in a hopelessly irreparable romantic relationship.

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