By: Addison Wylie
Veteran actor Bruce Greenwood and budding actress Ella Purnell are two performers who benefit the most from Frank Hall Green’s weak drama Wildlike. Purnell plays fragile teenager Mackenzie who has been taken advantage of, and in turn can’t trust anyone. Greenwood plays heartbroken wanderer Rene who hopes for a future of clarity and eventual happiness. When Purnell and Greenwood are together, their chemistry is suitably akin to oil and water, but they’re both convincing in their own right.
Unfortunately, despite reccomending Wildlike’s core players, I found Frank Hall Green’s thinly-sliced character study to be boring and stuck on repeat. For every lap his characters take in this sparse screenplay, they gain very little from the same motions they experience on their unexpected travels across the Alaskan land. Instead of adding developmental dialogue and insight that would build towards a unique father-daughter-type of relationship between Mackenzie and Rene, Greenwood and Purnell take in the environment around them, as filmmaker Green thinks of more angles cinematographer Hilary Spera could capture of the scenery. At times, Wildlike is less of a narratively-driven film, and more of a travelogue with a folksy soundtrack.
Purnell shows a lot of effort in her career-defining performance when she is establishing Mackenzie in a way that skips a formulaic “runaway youth” mould. These choices issue more suspense when Mackenzie is around suspectful strangers – especially her Uncle (played by a very intimidating Brian Geraghty). It’s a shame Frank Hall Green refuses to work with the special attributes his newcomer is offering him. The filmmaker wants her to shuffle through the same motions as the backdrop changes to different spots around Alaska.
Frank, just because you change the picturesque background doesn’t mean you’re progressing your story or further developing your characters. May I remind you of when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera did the same thing on the Flintstones, and would loop the same Bedrock boulders and trees as Fred drove his car? However, at least Hanna-Barbera had an idea where Fred was going. It may have simply been a trip from the rock quarry to pick up some Brontosaurus barbecue, but it’s more of a story than what Wildlike serves up.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie