Vie sauvage (Wild Life) Review

Posted: October 21, 2014 in 2014 London Film Festival, Drama, Foreign, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

vie-sauvageThe French drama Vie sauvage (Wild Life) starts at full tilt. A father is headed out for the day to run errands, leaving his wife and three children behind in less than bucolic splendor at the rural site where their camper is parked, their chickens are roosted, and their goats are roped. No sooner is Dad’s car pushed through the mud by the three boys than Mom begins to move frantically through the checklist of an obviously well planned and rehearsed escape. She gathers a few belongings, corrals the boys, and meets a friend by the side of the road who will take them to the train station and a start to their new life. The boys have other ideas, and she must keep control over them and make the train, while the threat of her husband returning looms.

It’s a terrific start to a film, and, more’s the pity then that Wild Life never again reaches such a level of excitement throughout the remainder of its 102-minute runtime.

Carole Garcia (Céline Sallette) is ready to give up the semi-nomadic life style she adopted after hooking up with Philippe Fournier (Mathieu Kassovitz) and starting a family with him. They added two kids to the one she had from a previous relationship and deliberately followed a course far away from a conventional existence built on consumerism, public schools, and hygiene. Carole, known as Nora in her traveler’s life, tires of it all, but especially the mud, and flees to her parents with the boys. She gets custody of the children, and Philippe aka Paco gets a warning to respect the magistrate, but he is more convinced than ever that his children must be saved from a societal brainwashing. On the occasion of a custodial visit, Paco absconds with his six-year-old and seven-year-old sons.

The entirety of the cast of Vie sauvage is stellar. Kassovitz as the father is particularly worthy of praise. He is absolute and an ideologue, but his love for his children is never in question. His actions are illegal, but his motives are genuine and consistent. Sallette as the mother carries the weary, pained look of a desperate woman. The film suffers after Paco takes the children, leaving her off screen for virtually the reminder of the movie. The two boys, Tsali (David Gastou and Romain Depret) and Okyesa (Sofiane Neveu and Jules Ritmanic), are played by two sets of actors, one pair at the time of the abduction, the other, ten years later, when the boys are becoming men and entering a period of natural rebellion against their father.

No one hits a wrong note in Wild Life. In fact, the film is amazingly atonal. There are virtually no high notes or low notes, simply a dead calm recounting of a life on the run that is paced more like a leisurely walk, though the cinematography by Yves Cape is superb. The movie is based on the true story of the Fortin family in France, and a faithful recounting of those events may be Vie sauvage‘s greatest flaw. Real life is generally not dramatic. That is why we have fiction. The unsatisfying conclusion to the film seemingly tracks with what occurred in real life. That may be well and good, but viewers can’t help but feel as if they have been witness to a rather long and tedious domestic dispute. Nothing to see here, folks.

Two stars.

 

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