At first glance, Frank Hall Green’s Wildlike would seem the latest entry in the “woman vs. nature” cycle — its title even contains that of one of the higher-profile recent examples — but Green has deeper ambitions, eschewing procedural survival-in-the-wilderness material for a strong focus on character.
Mackenzie (Ella Purnell), a fourteen-year-old from Seattle whose father recently died, is sent by her in-treatment mother to live with her uncle (Brian Geraghty) in Alaska. When that particular creep begins molesting her, Mackenzie runs away, soon attaching herself to older hiker Rene (Bruce Greenwood), who wants nothing to do with this troubled teenager.
Wildlike spends almost as much time with the logistics of getting by in civilization as it does with nature, but its true emotional core is the relationship between Mackenzie and Rene, particularly as she comes to realize that he’s that all-too-rare man who wants nothing from her sexually.
Greenwood brings his usual A-game, generating great chemistry with Purnell in their ad hoc paternal relationship, but she’s the revelation. Purnell delivers a nuanced, damaged performance reminiscent of peak Kristen Stewart, and not just because of her character’s predilection for dark eye makeup. More Kristen Stewart–types is something the movie industry very much needs.
Directed by Frank Hall Green
Killer Films and Tandem Pictures
Opens September 25, Cinema Village
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 22, 2015