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Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano are faces you'd typically see in front of the screen, but they've teamed up to co-write Wildlife - a 1950's set melodrama adapted from the book of the same name by Richard Ford - which is also Dano's directorial debut.
The film stars Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as warring parents in a dissolving relationship, as seen through the eyes of their teenage son Joe, played by newcomer Ed Oxenbould.
Our reporter Alexa spoke to Kazan and Dano at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival, where Wildlife is nominated in the First Feature Competition. Alexa spoke with them about the tensions of family life that lie at the centre of the story and what happens when this comes up against the ideals of the American Dream. See Alexa's red carpet interviews with Kazan above, and Dano below.
Wildlife is released in cinemas across the UK on 19 October 2018.
For inspiration on more book-to-screen adaptations to use in the classroom, explore our Alternative Adaptations film list below.
To say that the experience of watching Wildlife was like slowly ripping a plaster off wouldn't usually be a compliment. Yet, for Paul Dano's directorial debut, I can think of no better analogy. By utilising the undeniably winsome eyes of 14-year-old Joe, with his naivety and hope for the future being his family, Dano captures your heart and affection for his characters within said metaphorical plaster.
Upon his father, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal), losing his steady job at the golf course, you see cracks in Joe's perfect image of his family start to appear. These cracks allow Dano to slowly tug at said plaster, leaving you vulnerable throughout. And just at the climax, he rips it off entirely leaving your heart aching and raw for what this family has lost.
We tend to have this inherent idea that happiness is the key to a fulfilling life, and whilst in many cases this is true, we see in this film how the aspiration for happiness can be the very thing undermining one reaching it. Carey Mulligan's performance exemplifies this perfectly. It is one of the strongest acting performances I feel I've seen for a while; her emotions are tender and honest. You can understand her desire to hold her once perfect, now crumbling, family together whilst simultaneously trying to hold herself together and fit into society's mould of the ‘perfect woman'. It's quite frankly magnificent and heartbreaking to watch.
Her fellow actors also a hefty amount of credit. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb in showing the crisis of a man (supposedly) in the golden age of America dealing with his pride and a stagnating work life. His chemistry with screen son Ed Oxenbould is undeniable and only endears you to the family even more.
It's hard to understand just how this is Paul Dano's directorial debut. He tackles a tough subject with such taste and passion that it clearly depicts the strenuous toll that job insecurity and a lack of communication can have even on the most ‘perfect' of families. The emotional nature of the film is only further emphasised through its wonderful aesthetics. Intense tight shots allow you to feel the heat of every moment and are beautifully contrasted by panoramic shots showing and paying homage to the idea of what that ‘Golden age' of America was.
I left the cinema speechless at the psychological toll the film had on me; it's an emotional slow burn quite like no other. A film perfect for more mature teenagers ready to explore ideas of family and the hurt that society can have on the smaller people trying to make their way in the world. The performances are astounding and the film itself is wondrously beautiful; I cannot wait to see what Dano does next.
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