Director: Fritz Böhm
Cast: Bel Powley, Liv Tyler, Collin Kelly-Sordelet, Brad Dourif, James Le Gros, Mike Faist
MPAA Rating: (for violence including bloody images, language, some sexual content and teen drinking)
Running Time: 1:32
Release Date: 4/13/18 (limited)
Capsule review by Mark Dujsik | April 12, 2018
Wildling changes directions one too many times. Director Fritz Böhm and Florian Eder's screenplay starts under enigmatic circumstances and becomes a strange but sympathetic coming-of-age story. The final turn abandons the story's mystery and its compassion for a straightforward horror tale that neither makes much sense nor fulfills the promise of its first two acts.
It begins as the story of a young girl who's being held in captivity by a mysterious man, whom she calls "Daddy" (Brad Dourif) and who keeps her drugged as she starts to mature. This goes on for years—maybe a decade or more. When Anna (Bel Powley) is a teenager, the man kills himself, and Anna is rescued.
She's taken in by Ellen (Liv Tyler), the local Sherriff, and her younger brother Ray (Collin Kelly-Sordelet). After only being in contact with one person for most of her life, Anna has to adjust to the normal world of high school, puberty, and parties.
The adjustment is rough, in part because Anna believes that there are wolf-like creatures called "wildlings" that live in the woods and feed on children. Mostly, though, it's because she is experiencing a slew of emotional, physical, psychological, and social situations for which she is unprepared. The movie presents a heightened version of the teenage experience, in which one constantly feels like a stranger within his or her own body and like an outsider to the rest of the world.
This section works well enough, especially with Powley's introverted performance, which suggests a lot of pain and confusion beneath Anna's silent and still exterior. There's something else happening beneath the surface, though, and it's the gradual revelation of Anna's true nature that takes the story into the realm of horror.
What, ultimately, does the movie have to say about this character or the surreal twist on adolescent life? It doesn't have much to say, because it would rather resurrect a seemingly dead character, delve into the reality of the wildling myth, and resolve its conflict with a few killings and an extended chase sequence.
Wildling is on to something with its central conceit that being a teenager can be akin to feeling like some kind of monster. It's when the movie takes the idea literally that it falls apart.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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