Destructive energies of the 50s onscreen in ‘Wildlife’

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival will present the beautiful and affecting narrative drama “Wildlife” on Friday, May 10, at 7 p.m., as its featured May film for the MNFF 2018/19 Winter/Spring Screening Series at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. Expanding to seven films from six, the series has offered one distinctive feature every month since November and concludes this month with “Wildlife.” The series retains its exclusive focus on prominent work by first- and second-time filmmakers.
The premise of “Wildlife” is straightforward. In 1960s small town Montana, a 14-year-old boy witnesses his parents’ marriage falling apart after his golf pro father loses his job and impetuously leaves to fight fires in the Canadian wilderness. Featuring exquisite performances from Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, “Wildlife” is an emotionally resonant directing debut from actor Paul Dano.
As Indie Wire’s David Ehrlich notes, “Families are built upon two things: blood and belief. They can get by on the strength of one or the other (to have both is something of a luxury), but when the latter starts to wither, the former can only do so much to save it. This strange alchemy — the science responsible for so many American lives — percolates inside every frame of Paul Dano’s remarkable ‘Wildlife,’ a tender, gorgeous, and exquisitely understated drama about a family that loses its faith in itself.”
And Owen Glieberman in Variety described “Wildlife” this way: “The movie, adapted from a novel by Richard Ford, takes place in 1960 in the small town of Great Falls, Montana, and Dano instantly establishes his command as a filmmaker by re-creating the period with an authenticity that’s scrupulous enough to seem downright exotic. The desks in the school, the stacks and stacks of cans in the supermarket, the clunky way the channel changer works on the TV set — and, above all, the calm that hovers on the edge of desolation: the movie is exacting enough to transport you back in time.”
Dano, it’s immediately clear, is a natural-born filmmaker, with an eye for elegant, spare compositions that refrain from being too showy; they rarely get in the way of the story he’s telling. The tale itself is resonant and absorbing, though in a highly deliberate way. It’s about the energies that were bubbling up from the underbelly of the late ’50s, and how they began to eat away at that clean cautious surface.”
As the latest MNFF Winter/Spring Series comes to a close, Lloyd Komesar, MNFF Producer reflects: “We are fortunate to have a splendid film like ‘Wildlife’ to wrap things up for the season. It has been a fine run through winter into spring and we look forward to returning next November with another lineup of entertaining and engrossing films from first- and second-time filmmakers.”
“Wildlife” will screen at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury on Friday, May 10, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $13 and available at the Town Hall Theater Box Office, either in person, by phone at (802) 382-9222 or online at townhalltheater.org/calendar-and-tickets. Tickets and the film’s trailer are also available at the MNFF website, middfilmfest.org/winter-spring-screenings.

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