('Wilder' to rhyme with 'builder'. No, I don't know what it means.)
I wouldn't have seen this had it not been so garlanded with praise from many quarters - and it's currently enjoying a mighty high IMDb average rating of 8.2. Wish I hadn't bothered.
A New Zealand film with a good clutch of native Kiwi actors in the minor roles, it shows off to superb advantage the quite exceptional landscape of that country, an inexplicably rare event outside the 'LOTR' and 'Hobbit' trilogies of films.
Julian Dennison, a seriously overweight, orphaned teenage delinquent, already with a long small-time criminal record, is given over by the childcare authorities to foster parents living in the mountain forests - she, a garrulous middle-aged woman who kills, skins, prepares and cooks wild animals for meals, and who doesn't survive long after the boy arrives - and Sam Neill, her grizzled, grumbling (and illiterate) husband. When the care supervisors hear about the wife's decease they tell the husband they will collect the boy until they can decide on his next home. The two of them, now with one of those mutual-enmity bonds between them with which we are so familiar, leave their ramshackle forest residence and go on the run in the wild.
As they roam around aimlessly they come across a handful of oddball characters, including three youngish, hostile trappers - and an intensely irritatingly dotty 'man of the mountains' - at whom we're supposed to be amused, I take it.
The film throughout has several encounters with forest beasts, both tame and fierce, resulting in a (small) number of violent animal deaths - as well as that of one of the couple's two dogs. I won't pretend that I didn't find all these few incidents very uncomfortable to watch. I hope they didn't influence my final verdict but they undoubtedly did cloud any 'enjoyment' I might otherwise have experienced.
While the two are on the run the publicity of their disappearance grows until they are pursued by full-scale police and military forces, it being believed that the Sam Neill character has kidnapped the boy for nefarious purposes.
I found the film fatally self-regarding. It's as though someone, the director Taika Waititi (also the screenplay writer from another source) said "Right everybody. Let's make an 'entertainment'!" The result being that much of the cast of lesser characters seem to be acting their heads off in a conscious effort to be funny or profound - and they were neither! The badly behaved boy, Julian Dennison, composes haikus, would you believe? Needless to say he's also overflowing with wise-ass aphorisms, displaying a wisdom way beyond his years, something I just cannot abide in films. The female senior childcare officer was another one who mugged her lines wholesale, expecting us to laugh at her exasperations. Only Sam Neill comes out of the project with any significant dignity, but even he is served with a script that hardly ever shines.
Anyway, what do I know? It's a film that's been fantastically well received in many quarters, even applauded in places. I can only report on my own reaction, which corresponds to a score of...........5.
1 hour ago