Review by Ryan Unger
Wildlike tells the tale of a lonely girl named Mackenzie who, because of unfortunate familial circumstances, gets sent to Alaska to live with her uncle. After things turn ugly with him, a series of events causes her to befriend an older man who’s preparing for a hike in the Alaskan wilderness. Director Frank Hall Green crafts a warm story of the emotional bonds that hold people together.
The lead character, Mackenzie (played by Ella Purnell), does a believable job as a lonely, angst-ridden teenager. We learn early on that her father passed away, and her mother is institutionalized somewhere in Seattle for reasons unknown. Because she is not old enough to live on her own, she must live with her uncle (Brian Geraghty of The Hurt Locker and Jarhead) in Alaska. We come to find out his intentions with Mackenzie aren’t pure. After an unfortunate sexual incident one night, Mackenzie decides to run away and shortly after meets a man named Renee Bartlett (played convincingly by Bruce Greenwood). The two have a rocky relationship at the beginning but eventually commence on a journey through the Alaskan wilderness and find they have more in common than they initially thought. Renee and Mackenzie form a bond that viewers assume will remain intact long after the movie ends.
The magnificent cinematography captures the Alaskan wilderness beautifully; lakes, mountains and forests all look lush and serene. The film also does a great job of creating a lonely atmosphere that puts the viewer in Mackenzie’s shoes. Many of the scenes have a blue hue to them, signifying dreariness. A limited amount of actors onscreen at any one time makes you feel much of the world she lives in is empty.
Peaceful, instrumental music makes up the soundtrack until the end, when a traditional folk song called “The Parting Glass” appropriately wraps up the film. The rapport between Mackenzie and Bart never seems forced; as viewers, we like to see human connection at its best, and Wildlike doesn’t disappoint.
The acting, cinematography and story all make Wildlike a worthwhile movie. Although not entirely original, the plot still engages you until the end. I usually find it hard to fully absorb myself into movies that cast females in lead roles. Wildlike, however, proved me wrong, and I was happy that it did.