Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Wildhood: Movie Review

Lovely and sweet but meanders a lot through how much life sucks.

This is a dead horse movie. Not literally – allow me to explain. As a Canadian schoolgirl, we always had to read Canadian novels which invariably centered around poor families whose lives got worse because of nature, the economy, or nature some more. I called these “dead horse books” because the family’s horse frequently died, or sometimes the grandfather, or sometimes both. There’s some uplifting moment at the end, but they’re always about how much life sucks.   2021

Directed by: Bretten Hannam

Screenplay by: Bretten Hannam

Starring: Phillip Lewitsky, Joshua Odjick

Link (Phillip Lewitsky) is a teenage boy living with his father and younger half-brother in a trailer park in Nova Scotia. He steals things to get by and then comes home and gets abused by his father and then gets abused some more and then gets abused some more, and then he runs away in an attempt to find his mother, with no money and his father’s truck. This is a dead horse movie. It gets better because it literally can’t get worse.

Link and Travis on the run – from, well, everything – get helped out by Pasmay (Joshua Odjick). While it is a road trip movie, the true heart of the movie where all the joy emanates from is the coming-of-age love story between Link and Pasmay. Link is half Native, the half of him that he tries to hide with his dyed-blonde hair to better fit in with his white trash surroundings. Pasmay doesn’t hide his Native heritage. He’s a pow wow dancer with all the authentic regalia. Pasmay has also run away from his family, but he’s been on his own longer, and sees a lot of himself in Link. Pasmay is sweet and funny and accepting and helps Link better open up to himself.

There is a lot of really nice cinematography as the boys venture through the Nova Scotia countryside, but the film definitely meanders a lot. Road trip movies typically have poor pacing, and the fact that Link and Pasmay are both very aimless for most of the story does not help. It leans very heavily in to lets try to appreciate the moment. Even though the boys don’t have much they have each other and there are helpful strangers along their journey.

However, if you are here for teenage gay love, then you’re in luck. That’s where this film shines. It’s not forced at all, and develops so gradually that I was never sure that’s where it was actually headed. Pasmay is more aware of his sexuality, Link is not. It’s just a very natural romance, sweet and heat-fulfilling.

The indigenous theme of the movie – particularly with Link trying to ignore his roots but then finding happiness when he finally embraces them – are well handled. Wildhood is writer-director Brett Hannam’s first feature and the two main themes of the story that Link explores are both excellent, as are the two main actors. I just don’t have a lot of patience for movies about how much life sucks.