Review by Sean Boelman
Jeanette Nordahl’s Wildand is the latest in the trend of gritty family crime dramas that were rejuvenated a decade ago by David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately far too derivative of the films that came before, Nordahl’s direction here is interesting, but Ingeborg Topsøe’s script is largely lacking in excitement.
The movie follows a young woman who, after the tragic death of her mother, moves in with her aunt and gets drawn into the dark world in which the family business functions. It’s an extremely basic setup that falls back on the age-old genre trope of having an outsider join in the criminal underworld and bring a new perspective to the goings-on.
Since all of the beats in the story are so familiar, the film suffers from an overwhelming feeling of predictability. For much of the movie, there’s not really any excitement because viewers will think “been there, done that” with how bland the story is. There are a few solid moments, particularly in the third act, but they are too few and far between to sustain tension.
The other major issue with the film is that it feels frustratingly hollow. The typical message of defining one’s own future seems to be the main point here, but this has been done so many times in the genre before, and much more authentically. Nordahl’s movie is so cold and distant that it’s hard to connect with the material.
As is the case with much of the rest of the script, the character development in the film is pretty shallow. Although some of the characters work decently on an individual level, the family dynamic isn’t developed in as meaningful of a way as it should be. It too often feels like melodrama rather than earnest family drama.
Sandra Guldberg Kampp shows a great deal of potential in the leading role. She is able to take a character that is undeniably generic and make something moderately intriguing out of it by adding a sense of mystique. The supporting cast is given even less material to work with, and as a result, they struggle even more.
On a visual level, Nordahl is able to infuse the movie with a very dark style. The cinematography by David Gallego creates an atmosphere that almost makes up for the lack of suspense in the script. And the world-building that feels so generic on the page is made substantial by Nordahl’s approach.
In her feature debut Wildland, Jeanette Nordahl shows a lot of potential as a filmmaker. That said, the script is far too lackluster for her talents, restraining her vision into a box that is overly restrictive and conventional.
Wildland screened at the 2020 AFI FEST which ran October 15-22.