It would be generous to say that Wildland (Original title: Kød & blod), a Danish film directed by Jeanette Nordahl and written by Ingeborg Topsøe, is reminiscent of Animal Kingdom (2010). Actually, it almost feels like a remake of David Michôd’s Australian film. The most notable difference is that this time the story stars a 17-year-old girl named Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp). Perhaps slightly less withdrawn than Joshua (James Frecheville), the lead of Animal Kingdom, she must move in with her estranged aunt and her grown sons after her mother’s death in a car accident. At first the family seems normal, full of affection and welcoming the girl, but we soon discover increasing tensions with devastating consequences.
We learn little about Ida’s mother, but the calm way in which the young girl responds to her death hints at a complicated relationship. As the film progresses, it is easy to conclude that her mother decided to distance herself from her family because of their aggressive behaviors that range from the most subtle to the most extreme. The family consists of Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Ida’s aunt, her children Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup) and her wife Marie (Sofie Torp), parents of a little girl named Mia, Mads (Besir Zeciri) and David (Elliott Crosset Hove).
Ida seems to know nothing about them. We never know if her mother told her family stories. But it didn’t take long for her to get along with her cousins, hanging out with them. She also becomes very close to her aunt. David is the only one who initially shows some discomfort with Ida at home. This young man with such a strange expression in his face, has drug addiction problems and a romantic relationship with Anna (Carla Philip Røder) that his mother does not approve of.
As in Animal Kingdom, Bodil (Knudsen is excellent!) as the matriarch who seems to have absolute control of her family, always looking out for her children, whom she kisses on the mouth just like Janine (Jacki Weaver) did. She seems genuinely concerned for the well-being of Ida, as well as David, the weakest of her children, and who seems to suffer the emotional and physical abuse of Jonas, evidently the harshest of the three siblings.
The plot thickens when Ida must accompany her cousins to visit a guy who apparently owes them money. This visit turns violent. But it is using his daughter to threaten him what impacts Ida the most. “What if he doesn’t have the money?,” she asks Jonas. “Once I talk to the kids, they usually do”, is his response. That contrast between the inner and outer world of the family is interesting. Ida’s perplexity at her family’s contradictory behaviors and those little moments of violence is affecting thanks in part to Guldberg’s brilliant performance. In fact, all the performances are remarkable and constitute without a doubt the main strength of the film.
The female perspective is interesting if we consider that gangster movies tend to focus on men. Here we see a girl who faces the concerns of adolescence as she grows up surrounded mostly by men. There is a key moment when Ida’s sexuality is presented through her interest in Anna, but the issue it is never deeply explored.
Eventually Ida finds herself in the situation of choosing between loyalty to her family or moral and civic duty. Although it is not credible that her cousins, supposedly experts in this type of business, acted so naively at the film’s climax, Ida’s final choice is interesting, and the film’s ending is certainly more audacious and provocative than that of Animal Kingdom. This film is, despite everything, a gripping thriller about a dysfunctional family walking between love and violence.
Wildland comes to virtual cinema August 20
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!