Wildlife is a coming-of-age film searching for the American Dream nicely wrapped in a heartbreaking tale of regret

Adapted from Richard Forde’s book, this is Paul Dano’s directorial debut (You’ll know him from ‘There Will Be Blood’ and ‘Okja’) and one he wrote with his partner Zoe Kazan.


It’s a gentle and small film, focusing on a family of three; dad Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), mum Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and son Joe (Ed Oxenbould).

Newcomers to their Montana home, we learn by proxy that they are pretty hard up and have spent a lot of time moving around the country, following Jerry’s less than consistent employment history.

When his latest job at a golf course comes to an abrupt end, the cracks in the unit become blindingly obvious and the family begins to fall apart.

Whilst the ensuing mess is predominantly seen from the point of view of Joe, it’s Mulligan’s depiction of a sad and unwanted rebirth that really deserves a lot of the credit.

Deciding enough is enough and flinchingly allowing another man into her life for the sake of stability is sad for all concerned.

Gyllenhaal is as infuriating as ever (in the nicest possible way) with Jerry’s useless ‘too-late’ realisation of a life missed.

What begins as a depiction of the American dream becomes a monumental coming-of-age film for adults.

An assured debut from Dano and a genuinely heartbreaking portrayal of regret from Carey Mulligan with a final scene that will break your heart.

To hear my interview with Director Paul Dano, download the #talkFILM podcast right now!


Wildlife 105mins, (12A)

★★★★


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