All The Wilderness, a film written and directed by Michael Johnson, starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Virginia Madsen, Isabelle Fuhrman, Evan Ross and Danny DeVito, is a the short story of a socially dysfunctional teenager lost in his own world of fear and grief – a wilderness of grief.
Living with his mother after the death of his father, he is socially awkward, friendless and convinced that he is cursed with knowing when people or animals are going to die. His obsession with death leads him to catalogue and sketch every dead animal and insect he sees.
James is not the only one grieving his father’s death, however. James’ mother is trying to drown her sorrows in wine, while James’ shrink (DeVito) is less sympathetic than a psychiatrist would normally seem, but his level of care for James keeps pushing him to deal with his problems.
In the midst of James’ wilderness of woes, he meets a beautiful young woman, goes on an adventurous night with a pair of strangers, and his eyes start to open to a happier side of life. It might take some underage drinking and pot smoking, but James does start to have fun.
Then comes more heartbreak when he girl he’s falling for accidentally crushes his hopes at a party. Drama, drama, dealing with problems, and the movie starts to head towards its resolve. Not that those parts are interesting, or worth noting, it’s just that you should rather go see the movie than read all about every scene here.
Everyone in the film gives an amazingly real performance, packed with emotion and drama and relationships. Kudos to the cast for making this film’s characters seem like real people, not actors reading lines. Kodi Smit-McPhee in particular makes every small gesture, look and line as true to his character as imaginable.
There is also kind of a secret during the movie about the death of James’ father. This secret, however dramatically revealed at the ending, is really not a secret at all if you have your eyes open during the film.
(Spoilers: James keeps pausing and looking at the bridge. That’s a clue you can’t miss. A little mystery about how the father died would have made the reveal at the end more powerful, but it works nonetheless.)
This isn’t a big budget film with a huge cast and tons of special effects. It’s small and simple; and whenever you do something simple you have to make sure you do it right. All The Wilderness got it just right.
ON VOD FEB. 20TH.