In Paul Dano’s directing debut, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal capture the cracks that occur in a marriage when a young wife kicks against the constraints of 1950s domesticity.
Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, two of the most gifted performers of their generation, lend a haunted melancholy to this evocative portrait of a crumbling marriage in 1950s Montana. Adapted from Richard Ford’s novel, Wildlife observes with acute nuance the emotional fallout that occurs for a small American family when dad Jerry (Gyllenhaal) loses his job. In a crisis of self, Jerry departs for the mountains to fight wildfires, leaving wife Jeanette (Mulligan) and son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) to fend for themselves.
Jaded by the confines of domesticity, Jeanette responds with an identity exploration of her own, trashing her 1950s homemaker image and embarking on an unsettling affair with a local bachelor. This dual metamorphosis is sensitively observed by only child Joe, whose coming of age here is rife with the volatility evoked in the film’s title. First-time helmsman Paul Dano is best known as an actor (There Will Be Blood, Love & Mercy), but judging by the virtues of this deeply affecting excavation of period mores, he’ll soon be equally revered as a director.