Well this was prettier than I expected! Definitely an acting showcase sort of movie, but behind-the-camera Paul Dano turns out to have a really beautiful artistic sense, in addition to getting wonderful performances out of his cast. In particular the color language, cinematography, and sound mixing were gorgeous, and tie to what I somehow did not know going in: that the 1950s nuclear family falling apart in Wildlife are doing so against the breathtaking backdrop of a Montana autumn, as a wildfire roars just beyond the mountain line, and the whole town waits for snow.
Carey Mulligan is obviously the best part of this, but that really just speaks to how very good she is, given the quality of everyone and everything around her. Her character has this tendency to just say things to people, startling things, particularly to her 14-year-old son, who is in the uneasy role of his mother’s only confident in this remote western town where her husband has recently moved them. He’s our center character, this watchful, nice kid, around whom his parents start to orbit more and more chaotically as their own system is thrown off its axis.
And when I think of this movie, I think of Carey Mulligan’s hitching smile, but then I think of just wordless sequences of young Joe in his deeply cuffed blue jeans running, through tawny Andrew Wyeth fields fields, down quiet midcentury suburban streets, under that big sky. The claustrophobia of these sort of relationship stories is really set off this time with how towering the outdoors are as soon as they step outside.
Anyway, I did feel the length of this movie, which probably speaks to a first-time director. My friend I saw it with and I actually both thought that a moment maybe seven or ten minutes before the true end was the final cut we would have picked, and interestingly, that point we found a natural stop would have left an ending more up in the air. With the smoke, and high flakes of snow.