Wild Life (2014)

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Based on a true story, Wild Life (original title: Vie Sauvage) is the latest feature by French director Cédric Kahn, who previously wrote and directed Red Lights (2004) and 2001 Cannes Festival entry Roberto Succo.

Kahn tells the story of Philippe ‘Paco’ Fournier (Mathieu Kassovitz), who runs away with his two young sons, Tsali (David Gastou) and Okysa (Sofiane Neveu), as he faces losing custody from his estranged wife Nora (Céline Sallette).  Wanting them to be brought up away from a material, conventional life, Paco takes his sons off the grid to live a simple, nomadic life for ten years.  However, when the boys reach their teens, their desire for a normal life threatens to expose Paco to the authorities.

Given that Kahn had the chance to give a two-sided adaptation of the true story of Xavier Fortin, his decision to adapt the father’s story, rather than the mother’s distress for her missing sons, makes a more compelling tale.  Kahn adapts the film with stunning visuals, from the isolated locale of the hilltop community to the picturesque landscapes that are haunted by the sporadic glimpses of the police, which gradually raises the tension throughout the film.

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Paco’s struggle for parental rights is captivating, thanks to a faultless performance by Mathieu Kassovitz.  On the face of it, Wild Life is about the difficulties of having separated parents but it also deals with the themes of children’s rights and freedom of choice, showing that there is much more to the tale than the one-sided perspective of Paco’s ‘troubles’.

As the film progresses, it seems unclear whether these motives are purely out of his devotion as a father, rather than his desire to stay out of jail.  In addition, the boys’ do not question his father’s actions yet they don’t fight him, choosing to live a life of blissful ignorance for a whole decade.  Giving the irony that Paco tries to give his sons a ‘free’ life, but he is essentially entrapping them due to their lack of legal rights, leaves all of his motives up for debate.

Thought-provoking, engaging with a strong performance by Kassovitz, Wild Life provides a very different insight to the troubles of a single parent.

Director: Cédric Kahn
Stars: Mathieu Kassovitz, Céline Sallette, David Gastou
Runtime: 102 min
Country: Belgium, France

Film Rating: ★★★★½

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