11 September 2018 | mr_bickle_the_pickle
A good start for Paul Dano's directorial debut
This movie is being described as "A boy witnesses his parents' marriage falling apart after his mother finds another man." And while I think thats true, I think its a bit more complex than that. It also is a bit of a coming of age story where Joe has to grow up and be the adult in this family, but also it seems that mom is having a mid-life crisis (although shes not quite mid-life) and trying to discover who she is outside of being the "perfect 50s housewife" that perhaps she feels trapped in. There's a lot of symbolism in this movie. The backdrop of this movie is that there is a wildfire that has been raging and the townspeople have been desperately trying to put out. And that correlates with Joe and his own family. Hes trying to put out the fire in his own family. Also, Joe works at photography studio and Paul Dano (the director and co-writer) even said that this is supposed to be a PORTRAIT of a family life.
Speaking of Paul Dano, I think he did well with his directorial debut. I think visually there are some gorgeous shots in this movie. Like for instance where Joe is watching the wildfires (and hes perfectly centered - probably again to mimic the portrait vibe). Also where Joe is about to give up but it starts to snow and hope has regained. I liked the film for the most part. They do frame the film by following Joe's perspective. And I think its mostly effective in making you feel for this kid, my only problem is there are a couple of parts where I feel like there are gaps in the story. Without giving too much away there is a scene where Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) has decided to seek revenge and it ends up backfiring. And yet, the next time we see him everything seems to be fine. And it never really gets explained what happened. Theres a brief line that they decided it was a "misunderstanding" but you never really see what happened and he also gets hurt during this, and that never gets brought up again either. I know Paul and Zoe (the other writer) were adapting this from a book and perhaps thats the way it is in there too. But I personally found that a little frustrating. I needed a little more.
Carey Mulligan is fantastic in this. She would be deserving to have her name thrown in the hat for awards season. I also thought Ed Oxenbould was a standout too. Which is good to hear since he's onscreen for pretty much most of the movie. I definitely will be looking forward to more of his things. I also thought Jake Gyllenhaal was good but hes absent for a good chunk of the film and so he just didnt stand out as much as Carey or Ed did.
Overall I liked the film. It wasn't perfect, but I would totally check out another film that Paul Dano directs.