Wildlike, a film by writer/director Frank Hall Green, was shown during the eighteenth Dances With Films (DWF) indie-film festival in Hollywood, May 28 – June 7. Dances With Films promotes itself as relying on “innovation, talent, creativity, and sweat equity” rather than celebrity. All those good qualities are evident in Wildlike.
Wildlike stars newcomer Ella Purnell (Maleficent, Never Let Me Go) as Mackenzie, a 14 year old whose father has died. Her mother, played by Diane Farr (NUMB3RS, Rescue Me), says she needs time to get her life in order and continue her therapy, so she sends Mackenzie from their home in Seattle to spend time with her uncle in Alaska. The uncle, portrayed by Brian Geraghty (The Hurt Locker, Flight), turns out to be a sexual predator. Unable to contact her mother, Mackenzie decides to flee into what is to her the alien world of Alaska.
Desperate and alone, she stalks and latches on to Rene Bartlett, a lone backpacker played by Bruce Greenwood (I,Robot, Star Trek, Mad Men). Their relationship, challenged by the rugged nature of Alaska, bears, police, and ultimately the creepy uncle, moves them through a range of emotions and growth.
Purnell’s portrayal of Mackenzie is impressive. She begins as a barely tolerable teenager (aren’t they all), but we manage to feel sympathy for her because she does have real problems. She starts full of self-pity and low self-esteem. She is forced to grow as she must maneuver in a world without adult support.
Greenwood’s character, Rene, has his problems, too. He wants to be alone with the memories of his recently deceased wife, re-visiting the trails they walked upon. The last thing he wants is an obnoxious teenager following him around. His character also grows in response to the challenges.
I was particularly impressed with the character of Rene. He is faced with challenges and temptations and behaves in an unexpected manner. He is something rarely seen in current films: a good, moral man.
I spoke with writer/director Frank Hall Green after the screening. This film, Green’s debut as a director, not only tells the story of a long journey, its road to Dances With Films was a long journey as well.
Green, a backpacker himself, had explored Alaska many years ago. He completed the first draft of Wildlike in 2010 and walked the route he envisioned for Mackenzie.
During 2010-12, Green lined up the cast. He saw Ella Purnell in Never Let Me Go, and was impressed. Purnell, a native of England, auditioned with a perfect American accent and that sealed the deal.
During pre-production, to find locations, Green and producer Joseph Stephens trekked along Mackenzie’s path yet again.
The production began in Anchorage. On the tenth day of filming the cast and crew formed a caravan and began a 3000 mile trip around Alaska. Making things more challenging, in order to capture the beauty of Alaska, they recorded the movie on 35mm film. Those cameras are heavy, but the crew carried them up and down mountains and glaciers.
After the film was completed, the next part of the journey began.
Wildlike has been invited to over 90 film festivals and has won 50 festival awards, including 21 Best Film and Audience Awards. According to Green, a distribution deal is near. To find out when Wildlike will go to theaters and VOD, sign up at the film’s website.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00M4ADWTK,B00G8NW7HW,B00AFEXRME,B0012GVKVY]