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Wildlife Criterion Blu-ray Review

Wild

“Wildlife” deserves more attention. 

Based on the novel by Richard Ford, the 1960 set “Wildlife” revolves around the Brinson family consisting of married parents Jeanette and Jerry and their teen son Joe. The family of three move to a small town in Montana, but things sour quickly after Jerry loses his job and spirals into a depressed state. Matters only worsen when Jerry essentially abandons his family to fight forest fires with no idea of when he will return. Jeanette, meanwhile, struggles without her husband and resorts to becoming a swimming instructor and eventually having extra marital affairs with a wealthy local automobile dealer (Bill). All of this occurs under the watchful eye of a confused Joe whose family life is falling apart around him.

2018’s “Wildlife” is a deeply impressive directorial debut by Paul Dano. The actor turned filmmaker clearly learned a lot over the course of his career having worked with cinematic greats like PTA and Steve McQueen and it shows in his skilled work here. Dano and co-writer Zoe Kazan have also crafted a deep character study about a family falling apart, but, more than that, they created a very intimate and grounded story told from the POV of a son who is uncertain about his family’s future. It’s a very rich, subtle and often heartbreaking story that really dives into human fragility in ways that you don’t often see in cinema. 

Even though the film sounds small in scale, it’s a visually dazzling piece of cinema thanks to cinematographer Diego Garcia. Whether we’re seeing the front yard of a suburban home or a blazing wildfire, it’s a very visual film. The period recreation work by the production design team only adds to the magnificence on display. 

The 3 main players with Carey Mulligan (Jeanette), Jake Gyllenhaal (Jerry) and Ed Oxenbould (Joe) are nothing short of excellent. Mulligan has been one of the best actresses in the biz for a number of years now and she gives one of her best performances as a frustrated and lost wife/mother. How she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is beyond me. Gyllenhaal has a tendency to be a little too big in parts at times (see “Okja”), but he’s very reserved and down-to-earth here and he also gives one of his strongest performances. Oxenbould may not be a household name, but the young actor really holds his own here. He’s truly the heart of the film and he nails the big emotional beats. 

Overall Thoughts: Now that “Wildlife” is on home video, I hope it finds more of an audience as this is the definition of an underseen gem. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The 2K digital master gives the film such clarity. Even simple shots of a golf course look glorious in hi-def.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Expect a nice crisp audio track.

Extras:
* A booklet containing credits and an essay by film critic Mark Harris.
* “From Script To Screen”- 25 minutes of interviews with Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. Dano and Kazan discuss adapting the book into a screenplay while Mulligan and Gyllenhaal talk about getting their parts and the characters they play.
* “The World Of Wildlife”- Paul Dano, DP Diego Garcia, production designer Akin McKenzie and costume designer Amanda Ford talk about the striking visual style of “Wildlife” in this 16 minute bonus feature.
* “Postproduction”- Paul Dano, editor Matthew Hannam and composer David Lang talk about putting the film together in this 26 ½ minute extra.
* “Paul Dano and Richard Ford”- Film Critic Eric Hynes moderates a 45 minute conversation with Paul Dano and “Wildfire” novelist Richard Ford from 2018.

May 21, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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