In association with the French Film Festival
Wild Life, from director Cédric Kahn, in many ways adopts the tropes of a familiar family tale of divorce, separation and the inevitable difficulties which come with a newly fragmented family.
The difference, of course, lies in the unique lifestyle of the film’s protagonists. Living in mobile homes in the woodlands, away from modern technologies and consumerist distractions, the family manifest their bohemian existence. The film is loosely adapted from Xavier Fortin’s true story of an alternative life in nature with his children and (now ex-) wife, its real-life source material indicated in the camera work which at times seems almost documentary-like.
While the chaos of parental disharmony is clear from the start, the film never condemns or condones the family’s revolt lifestyle. The depictions of emotional distress are what really matter. That said, it’s difficult to argue with Nora when she insists that her sons need a future. She packs up, books a train, and escapes to her parents in the south of France with her boys following aimlessly behind her.
The majority of the narrative centres around the father chatacter, Paco, based on Fortin and played by Mathieu Kassovitz, who takes his two sons during his visitation hours and escapes with them for a life on the run. Living in squalor with little in the way of money and food, Paco tries to claw his way back into the lives of his lost children. A silhouette shot of him standing atop a hill, his sons on either side, staring out over a sunset would symbolise the freedom which his non-conformist life offers, were it not for the string of power lines that stretch across the horizon: the modern world is inescapable, or so the film implies.
Though at times repetitive, the film has the sense of a ticking timebomb. As Paco moves his sons from camp to camp, introducing them to nomads and farmers, the authorities seem sure to seek them out eventually. And as the boys enter adolescence, their father has to deal with their own rebellion against their fugitive lifestyle.
Wild Life is firstly a film about growing up, responsibility and the hardships of family disunity; the quirks and cons of a bohemian sub-culture are secondary.
[Tara Fitzpatrick – @TFitzpatrick25]