TIFF 2021: Wildhood Review

In Wildhood, writer/director Bretten Hannam brings a refreshing approach to this road movie, making it a captivating journey of self discovery.  With its keen visual strategy, the film becomes an allegory for a spiritual and sexual awakening. Wildhood employs a deceptively simple narrative structure, one in which stylistic elements imbue the film with a deeper, more transcendent quality.

Link (Phillip Lewitski) and his younger brother Travis (Avery Winters-Anthony) flee their abusive father, embarking on a journey where Link discovers his authentic two-spirited self and rediscovers his Mi’kmaw heritage. When they cross paths with a teenage drifter, Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), he joins them.

It is at this point that the film begins to transcend any formulaic expectations. Pasmay embraces his Mi’kmaw culture and embodies a unique way of approaching life. Director Hannam marshals the most subtle cinematic elements to gently signal a shift upon his arrival. Even the cinematography flows from the grittiest into the most idyllic scenes. Tight close ups give way to wider angles, and a freer shooting strategy literally opens the film up to produce a sense that anything is possible here.

Not everything makes sense on a logical level in Wildhood but clearly, Hannam is constructing greater emotional resonance. Secondary characters take on a mythic significance (watch for Michael Greyeyes in a brilliant turn) with the character of Pasmay being key. This mysterious young drifter becomes an important harbinger of a more mystical view of the world, one in which reasoning doesn’t always make for the best approach to life or storytelling. In this way, Wildhood is a resounding success.


Wildhood is screening as a part of TIFF 2021, which runs from September 9 until 18.

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