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by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Apr 13, 2018

Sort of a stale "Ginger Snaps," Fritz Böhm's "Wilding" takes the familiar trope of a girl's sexual awakening and compares it to a beast waiting to be unleashed. (Because as we all know, when a girl becomes a woman, they will tear the world apart. Or something like that.)

Written by Böhm and Florian Eder, this werewolf-esque tale concerns a little girl named Anna (played by Arlo Mertz, Aviva Winick, and, ultimately, Bel Powley) who is kept locked in her bedroom by her father (Brad Dourif), who is hell-bent on keeping her safe from a monster called the Wildling. Anna longs to go outside; when her father kills himself she gets her wish and is taken from the home by Sheriff Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler). Cooper fosters Anna until a permanent home can be found for her, joining Cooper's teenage son, Lawrence, who seems to like how weird Anna is. Aside from being an odd duck, Anna has dreams of running wild in a forest and seeing a strange creature eating people in the woods. She tries to adapt to society, but when she starts to change physically, reining her becomes a problem.

There isn't any new ground covered here, as this is a fairly straightforward gothic fantasy. Anna has to learn to live in the world and control who she really is while those around her struggle to understand her. It's like any normal teenager trying to find their footing in the world... except Anna's feet leave paw prints instead of footprints.

The film starts out fairly interesting and is decently directed, but it falls apart around the halfway mark. Meanwhile, the entire film is shot so dark it's hard to see what's going on for a good portion of the movie. This gets worse as the film keeps going, which is also when it starts to lose its way and we're not quite sure what the point of the thing is anymore.

Powley is effective bringing a dangerous innocence to Anna that gives the character more depth. Tyler is that calming, sweet, motherly figure who also happens to be a sort of complacent cop. The rest of the cast is serviceable; James Le Gros has an inexplicable role as a forest hobo who takes Anna in after a particularly violent night at a party. When the film ends, it's just sort of over without any insight into girls, sex, or being an outsider. It makes you wonder what drew anyone (except Powley) to the script when it just sort of lays there inertly. Böhm might surprise us with his next feature, but this one doesn't live up to its title. It's more Mild-ling then Wildling.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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