The path of self-discovery can be a turbulent and arduous emotional ride, one that not many are brave enough to take, for it incites change and change can be terrifying. But, in Wildhood, that is exactly what two brothers, Travis and Link, embark on. A journey that will change their lives forever.
The film’s central figure, Link, lives in an abusive home where his father, prone to fits of violence fulled by alcoholism, has told him that his mother is dead, not only keeping him disconnected from a mother’s love but from his own heritage. When Link finds out that, in fact, this was a lie all along, him and his half-brother Travis torch their dad’s car (truly deserved) and go on the run. This is where they encounter Pasmey, a two-spirit pow-wow dancer who shares an intimate bond with Link, reconnecting him to his severed past.
This beautifully woven story seeks to find truth in community, identity and love, weaving in and out the worst and the best of humanity. Somewhat reminiscent of Chloé’ Zhao’s work, especially when it comes to Guy Godfree’s cinematography, who beautifully captures the human nuances with Nova Scotia’s stunning backdrop. Other comparing works include Moonlight and God Own’s Country, but Bretten Hannam distinguishes himself here with an authentic piece of writing, a genuine and graceful approach to a deeply human narrative which delivers some truly stellar performances from a trio who rarely grace our screens.
But what sets Wildhood apart from the rest (a rather long library coming-of-age films) is the relationship between Link and Pamsey. Both Philip Lewitski and Joshua Odjick are exceptional in their roles, finding subtlety not just in their actions, movements and physicality but, more importantly for the lens, in each other’s gazes. Each glance unveils a layer of emotion, each look disguises an affection, and each stare an intimate connection.
Wildhood isn’t just an important film that deserves recognition, it’s a a significant leap forward in human storytelling, portraying indigenous culture with fluency, honesty and much affection. Yes, tears did stream down my face before the credits rolled.