Wildlife ★★★★

i'm always drawn to stories about families on the verge of collapse and wildlife is no exception. paul dano is one of my favorite actors and he's a great filmmaker as well. he comes off as very self-assured behind the camera, all his choices feel purposeful, and his sensibilities as an actor translate very clearly into his work with the cast. carey mulligan is incredible, taking us through what is essentially her character's longest manic episode without a single misstep. she mines the material for all its worth. jake gyllenhaal isn't in it as much as i thought he'd be but he does solid work as usual, though i have to say the biggest surprise for me was ed oxenbould. his character spends most of the movie silently reacting to his parents' immaturity, trying to deal with their inability to resolve their own issues in order to raise their child. you are always expecting him to explode and act out, but he looks the other way and keeps secrets even when it kills him. it's remarkable how much restraint he shows, and when he does finally raise his voice it's all the more affecting. definitely one of my favorite performances by a child actor in recent memory, and one of my favorite ensembles of the year by far. i can understand why people didn't like this film. the slow pacing and borderline unlikeable characters could easily make anyone feel detached from the story, but i was captivated. it played out like a distant, half-forgotten memory, one i hope to revisit soon.