The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - WILDLAND | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - WILDLAND

wildland review
An orphaned teen is entrusted to the care of her aunt, the matriarch of a dangerous criminal clan.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jeanette Nordahl

Starring: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Joachim Fjelstrup, Besir Zeciri, Elliott Crosset Hove, Carla Philip Røder

wildland poster

Jeanette Nordahl's directorial debut, Wildland, asks you to suspend your disbelief and accept its unlikely premise. If you can do so, you're in for a compelling 90 minutes featuring some of the best performances you'll see in European cinema all year.

Said unlikely premise sees 17-year-old Ida (newcomer Sandra Guldberg Kampp, who looks like the lovechild of River Phoenix and Scarlet Johansson) orphaned after surviving the car crash that took her mother's life. She is subsequently handed over to the care of her aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen), whom she hasn't seen since she was an infant. Bodil's warm, maternal demeanour is at odds with her role as the matriarch of a dangerous criminal clan who terrorise the vicinity with their strong-arm loan shark business. Social services and the police are both fully aware of Bodil's enterprise, so why on Earth would they allow her to become Ida's guardian? Best to put aside that inconvenient question and immerse yourself in the grimy drama that ensues.

wildland review

Ida is quickly taken under the wing of Bodil's adult sons – the intimidating Viking Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup), the video-game addicted manchild Mads (Besir Zeciri) and the drug-addled and mentally troubled David (Elliott Crosset Hove). The three brothers take their niece out clubbing, but also on their trips to collect money from their "clients". In one of the most morally reprehensible acts I've seen depicted on screen for quite some time, Jonas uses the presence of Ida to lure the young daughter of a man who owes him money into his car. "Once I talk to their children they always pay," he calmly informs Ida.

Ida is quickly sucked into her new family's ways, becoming defensive when David's put-upon girlfriend (Carla Philip Røder) describes them as "crazy". We get the sense that Ida lived a very conservative life with her mother, and is enjoying the madness of the world of Bodil and her boys, where getting drunk in the afternoon isn't frowned upon. Ida finds herself at a crossroads when she witnesses the accidental shooting of one of Bodil's clients by David. Instinctively she flees the scene and heads straight for her social worker, but she can't bring herself to betray her family.

wildland review

This leads to some nerve-wracking, tense scenes when Bodil's friendly façade breaks down as she now sees Ida as a threat to her family. There's nothing in nature quite as scary as a mother defending her offspring, and Knudsen's switch from smiling suburban mom to cold-hearted crimelord is pulled off in spectacular fashion by Knudsen, who late in her career is becoming one of Europe's most exciting actresses.

Equally impressive is Kampp, tasked with a difficult role that largely requires her to communicate her feelings through small gestures, given how shy and insular her character is. She really sells Ida's rollercoaster ride from being embraced by her foster clan to finding her very existence threatened by the very same people. As Ida becomes trapped in an awful situation she has no control over and seemingly no way of escaping, you'll wish you could reach into the screen and pull her out of this nest of vipers.

wildland review

Wildland falls just short of being a top-tier thriller by resolving its conflict at a point where a lot more suspense could have been drained out of the scenario. Chop off the closing 10 minutes and it might resemble the pilot episode for a prestige Nordic Noir show, but you'd certainly be compelled to watch any subsequent episodes.

 is in UK/ROI cinemas from August 13th.

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