Wildhood review — Indigenous coming-of-age picture a unique pleasure

Written and Directed by Bretten Hannam | 100 min | ▲▲▲▲△

A version of this review first appeared on FITI during the FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival in September 2021.

Bretten Hannam is a Two-Spirit L’nu filmmaker. Their first feature was called North Mountain, a wintry thriller that was also a Two-Spirit drama, a daring amalgam of genres that impressed in both its stylistic ambition and for Hannam having shot so many exterior scenes in winter. They told me when the film screened at the Atlantic Film Festival in 2015 that they lost feeling in their feet for months after the shoot due to so many nights in the snow.

Wildhood PHOTO by Riley Smith

This one looks like it was a lot less harrowing to shoot — a summer road picture about half brothers, Link and Travis (Phillip Lewitsky and Avery Winters-Anthony), escaping from their abusive father (Joel Thomas Hynes, cornering the local market on cinematic dirtbags lately) and trying to locate Link’s long-lost mother (Savonna Spracklin) and maybe his indigenous heritage and his burgeoning sexual identity in the process.

The brothers get a lift from Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), who agrees to take them where they want to go — an address on a long hidden envelope, a small clue that leads to bigger ones across Nova Scotia.

Full marks to cinematographer Guy Godfree for bringing such a gorgeous, summery energy to the film. In March, this picture is a tonic for those of us who are at our best in the warmer months.

An ease in the direction and the authenticity in the performances goes a long way to inject hope and wonder, a coming-of-age tale on multiple fronts with the darkness of the film’s early scenes replaced by an ebullient dynamic between the central three characters. Once Wildhood gets going it’s that youthful  portrait that hooks us, with support from actors like Michael Greyeyes offering more mature anchors along the way.

Hannam really sticks the landing with a heartfelt conclusion and a thoughtful use of Jeremy Dutcher’s music on the soundtrack to drive home the emotional resonance.

Wildhood PHOTO by Riley Smith

While North Mountain offered a calling card for Hannam’s potential, it’s a pleasure to see them realize it and more.

About the author

flawintheiris

Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.

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