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Stars: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp

Director: Paul Dano

While I appreciate the finer points of actor Dano's directorial debut, his carefully-crafted film is, I must begrudgingly admit, kind of dull at times, dwelling on the (expressive) faces of his cast a little too much.

Although the movie is titled Wildlife, after the book it's based on, it could more accurately be called Wildfire, as the distant plumes of black smoke fill the inhabitants of a small Montana town in 1960 with foreboding.

Jerry (Gyllenhaal), who once had dreams of becoming a pro golfer, now tends greens at the local club - occasionally helped by his 14-year-old son Joe (Oxenbould). His wife (Mulligan)'s bright and cheery exterior thinly conceals her despair at being trapped on the verge of the northwest wilds.

When Jerry loses his job for being too friendly with the club's clients, things go from bad to worse, especially when he (inexplicably) refuses the club's offer to take him back. Mooching around disconsolately and unable to find work, he finally joins those heading for the hills to fight the fires that are sweeping the countryside.

Hus wife, who has already found work, promptly goes off the rails with an (elderly) local businessman (Camp): their scenes together are even more awkward than one imagines the director intended.

Performances are solid, Mulligan's especially, although all the characters are rather dislikeable. As the fair-haired, pint-sized son of dark-haireds Gyllenhaal (6ft) and Mulligan (5ft 7), Oxenbould understandably looks a little lost.

David Quinlan

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour by Cinelease.
105 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 06 Nov 2018