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On digital: Free Solo / Wildlife

On digital: Free Solo / Wildlife

March 09
00:20 2019
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Breath-taking, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring — all overused terms from the reviewer’s lexicon but all true of Oscar-winning climbing film Free Solo. Alex Honnold is a documentarist’s dream: not only a real-life Spider-Man, who scales sheer rock faces with nothing but a handful of chalk, but an emotional enigma to boot. The movie is unexceptionally put together but Honnold’s ropeless feats need no embellishment. That is part of their appeal in an era of CGI fakery. Here nothing is digitally enhanced, yet there are superpowers: Honnold’s seeming ability to suppress fear; his girlfriend’s mind-boggling acceptance. It’s these human aspects that linger even after your palms have dried and your heart-rate has settled.

★★★★★

Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife has so much promise: Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan and a screenplay adapted from a Richard Ford novel. The story is simple — in 1960s Montana, an ostensibly loving and supportive family slowly fractures when dad gets sacked and takes off to fight fires in order to prove his worth. “What kind of a man leaves his wife and child in such a lonely place?” wonders mum Jeanette. The problem is, we don’t know either — though Gyllenhaal, Mulligan and Ed Oxenbould as their son Joe all give strong performances, we never get a true sense of “what kind of a man” or woman any of them are. Wildlife is at its best when presenting events through the eyes of young Joe, but elsewhere its emotional potential fails to ignite.

★★★☆☆

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