After being hit between the eyes by its startling opening image – the aftermath of the car crash which sets Wildland in motion – we soon find ourselves on familiar territory. One where family is all – although perhaps not in the Fast And Furious way – and where mother is most definitely in charge.
Jeanette Nordahl’s debut feature thrusts the survivor of the crash, teenager Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp), into the care of her aunt and cousins, people she hasn’t seen for years and knows little or nothing about. In shock from the death of her alcoholic mother, the house in the leafy suburbs seems to offer the peace and quiet she needs to recover, but she quickly discovers that their line of “work” is less than legal and they expect her to participate without question. In just a matter of weeks, she finds herself torn between doing the right thing and loyalty to her new family.
Taking her inspiration from David Michod’s excellent 2010 thriller, Animal Kingdom, Nordahl moves the action from Melbourne to the greenery of Denmark and presents the story through the eyes of the unsettled Ida, so that we discover what’s going on at the same time as she does. Cousin Mads (Besir Zeciri) gives his mum, Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen, currently also in Ben Sharrock’s Limbo), a wodge of cash in an envelope. She also has a habit of kissing her sons full on the mouth. It’s all very reminiscent of Animal Kingdom’s dominant Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Jacki Weaver) or, more recently, Lesley Manville in last year’s Let Him Go. There’s no question as to who’s the head of the household, one where traditional Danish hygge is noticeable by its absence.
The three sons and their nefarious activities – loan sharking with a smattering of drug dealing on the side – don’t give Ida the domestic security she needs. Their lack of boundaries – walking into the bathroom when she’s having a soak – all add to her discomfort but, instead of being the focus of the film, they’re essentially secondary characters, with the women driving the story. Alongside Bodil with her stilettos, talons and jangling bangles and the quiet, often monosyllabic Ida, there’s a third, cousin David’s (Elliott Crosset Hove) girlfriend Anna (Carla Philip Roder). Unsurprisingly, Bodil isn’t keen on her – girlfriends generally don’t meet with her approval – but the prospect of a grandchild helps sweeten the bitter pill.
As a first feature, Wildland has much to recommend it – Knudsen and Kampp are both powerful, Frederikke Hoffmeier’s atmospheric score, striking images and a nerve tingling use of silence – but the criminal family with the overbearing matriarch is a touch too familiar. And, even though Anna plays a crucial role in the unnerving final sequence, her character isn’t sufficiently developed to give the moment the truly shattering impact it deserves. As the film builds towards its climax, there’s an ominous sense that it’s running out of steam.
Drama, Thriller | Cert: 15 | Cinemas | 13 August 2021 | Picturehouse Entertainment |Dir. Jeanette Nordahl | Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Carla Philip Roder, Elliott Crosset Hove, Besir Zeciri.