The Alaskan landscape provides the dramatic backdrop for “Wildlike,” about a young girl finding her safety and solace in the wilderness when she can’t find it at home.
Fourteen-year-old Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) has been sent to live with her uncle (Brian Geraghty) in Juneau for the summer, but she flees his inappropriate advances the first chance she gets. The taciturn Mackenzie possesses a preternatural self-preservation instinct coupled with an impulsive nature, and she has no plan other than just to run.
Trying to pass herself off as a hobbyist hiker in Denali National Park, she is prey for the men around her. But her instincts lead her to Bart (Bruce Greenwood), a widower on his own kind of journey, who initially balks at her presence, his hackles and his guard up.
Writer, director and producer Frank Hall Green doesn’t overwork the story. Both Mackenzie and Bart are reticent and less than forthcoming about their situations, and both have to be highly attuned to nuance and subtlety in order to discern each other’s situations. This works in the film’s favor, which often lets silence speak for itself.
There’s nothing sensationalistic or lascivious about the depiction of abuse or retribution, and Green displays a delicate touch on the material. Cinematographer Hillary Spera lets the Alaskan landscape breathe and undulate in front of your eyes, in many ways healing our wounded protagonists.
“Wildlike” is an uncommon and deeply sensitive take on this type of story.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood