A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The destruction of a marriage can make those involved feel helpless and powerless.
Positive Role Models
Adults in the movie behave very poorly; no clear consequences other than separation/divorce. Father is somewhat admirable for going off to fight fires, but his decision is shown as more desperate than heroic, even though his son still admires him.
Violence & Scariness
A mother slaps her teen son. A man sets a house on fire with gasoline. Intense arguing. Bloody cut.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Married woman passionately kisses another man. Flirting. A naked man gets out of a bed he's shared with a married woman; his naked bottom is shown. Discussion of parents' sex life in front of teen.
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A use of "f--k." Also "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "my God," "Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character gets drunk at dinner. Secondary character regularly drinks beer, buys a six-pack of beer after being fired. Driving while drinking beer. Cigarette smoking in more than one scene. Cigar smoking. Teen tastes whiskey (doesn't like it).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wildlife is a 1960s-set drama about a disintegrating marriage and its effect on a 14-year-old boy. It's based on a novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford and marks the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano. It has some iffy sexual material: A naked male bottom is shown, and extramarital sex is suggested. A married woman also flirts with and kisses another man. Characters have intense arguments, a mother slaps her son, and a man sets a house on fire with gasoline. A bloody cut is briefly shown. Language includes a use of "f--k," plus "goddamn," "hell," and more. Characters drink in several scenes, and a main character gets quite drunk. Characters also smoke cigarettes and cigars, and a teen tastes whiskey. The performances are strong, and there are touching moments, but the material is dispiriting and airless overall. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, this dispiriting domestic drama is somewhat salvaged by its dedication to fine acting and by moments of stillness in which such acting can flourish. Based on a novel by Richard Ford (but feeling rather unlike Ford at the same time), Wildlife sometimes plays like a David Lynch-ian nightmare, in which characters sit around stiffly and speak banalities that cover up their true, roiling emotions. It's probably supposed to take place in a world before people spoke so openly about their feelings, but at the same time, it can't seem to find the connection between the characters' external actions and internal desires.
Gyllenhaal isn't on-screen long enough to flesh out his character, but his Jerry has some touching moments, especially his goodbye to his son before he leaves for the fire. Mulligan is the movie's centerpiece. With her "old soul" and pain-filled eyes, she takes the disconnect between her life and her inner turmoil and squeezes it together into madness. Jeanette's deterioration is truly disturbing, and yet somehow touching, too. Oxenbould's Joe is a passive character, mostly observing, mostly obedient, but the actor allows quiet, revealing moments of hurt to seep through, and he's heartbreaking. Camp is also quite good, somehow making his character into more of an enigma than a creep. It's not an easy watch, but Wildlife is an interesting calling card for Dano.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.