The Movie Waffler Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - WILD BONES | The Movie Waffler

Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - WILD BONES

Wild Bones review
A troubled woman's childhood trauma resurfaces when she inherits her father's house.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jack James

Starring: Mary Roubos, Roxy Bugler, Tom Cray, Gareth Haynes, Daniel Peace, Liz Farahadi

Wild Bones poster

Wild Bones opens with a scene that resembles an interpretive dance number. Alone in her isolated home in the English countryside, Fay (Roxy Bugler) contorts her body in rhythmic gyrations, performing a ballet of sorts in her stony surrounds. But something's not quite right about this dance. Fay seems to be forcing herself to perform, as though she's her own demanding parent, her shoulder blades almost tearing through her skin like a harpy about to sprout wings. By the end of the scene it's unclear whether Fay is indulging in recreation or torture.

Wild Bones review

If you've seen writer/director Jack James' previous feature, 2015's Malady, you know you're not in for an easy ride here. In that movie Bugler played a woman who becomes increasingly mentally unstable following her mother's death, throwing herself into a relationship with the first man she encounters. It seems James knows what he likes, as he's cast Bugler in an almost identical role for his second feature.

This time it's a father's death that sets the drama in motion. Fay receives a phone call from her half-sister Alice (Mary Roubos), who informs her that they have inherited a house from their father, a building neither sister previously knew existed. Fay's response – "Have you spoken to Dad?" – is a clear indication that all is not well with this woman.

Wild Bones review

Hoping to convince Fay to move into their inherited home, Alice pays her a visit with a male friend, Gary (Tom Cray), in tow. Fay is awkward in her younger sister's presence (they share the same father but different mothers) but begins to open up to Gary, who asks her personal questions more befitting a therapist than some strange bloke who just arrived unannounced. Alice's suggestion to visit the beach in the middle of a snowy winter forces us to question her motives. Is Fay set to be gaslit by her sister? When Gary and Fay become lovers and the former moves into her home while disappearing for days on end, it seems Fay's troubles may be set to increase.

Those troubles stem initially from her childhood mistreatment at the hands of her stepmother Candace (Liz Farahadi), Alice's birth mother. Fay claims she forced her to contort her body in unnatural and painful ways to become a better dancer, and also that she stubbed cigarettes out on her flesh. Alice refuses to believe Fay's accusations, claiming it was actually their father who abused Fay, but Fay is having none of it. Certainly her arms bear the marks of physical abuse, but it's unclear who the guilty party might be. Her Father? Her stepmother? Herself? Scenes are intercut with the shadowy presence of a shrouded figure puffing on cigarettes, but their identity is similarly clouded.

Wild Bones review

James does such an effective job of putting us in the headspace of a mentally troubled woman that many viewers will likely struggle to make it through Wild Bones. It's a discomfiting watch, with Bugler's performance, Ross Oliver's discordant score and James' unconventional framing and editing all combining to elicit the feel of a waking nightmare. The timeline is fractured and unclear, with scenes that you presume to be taking place just hours apart revealing themselves as separated by weeks. Despite its experimental trappings, there's a clear narrative here, but by the end you might find yourself questioning whether a more conventionally dramatic approach might have done this examination of mental illness and familial trauma more justice.

Wild Bones
 plays at Film Maudit 2.0 from January 12th.

2023 film reviews