A self-professed lover of the outdoors, Wildlike writer-director Frank Hall Green took a backpacking trip to Denali with his wife for about eight days. While he was on the venture, he realized the setting would be perfect for his next film.
"I wanted to tell an adventure about someone in the outdoors and recovery and perspective and what you learn from being alone or with others in a new unobstructed environment or setting," he says via phone from his New York home.
The resulting film centers on MacKenzie (Ella Purnell), a teenage girl who's gone to live with her uncle (Brian Geraghty). When he begins to molest her, she runs away and befriends Bart (Bruce Greenwood), a guy on a backpacking trip in the wake of a personal tragedy of his own. The two eventually bond. The film handles a delicate issue with finesse, keeping the scenes of molestation to a minimum and focusing on the recovery process. It opens on Friday, Sept. 25, at the Capitol Theatre and arrives on Video on Demand that same day.
Green, who's directed several short films and produced a slew of movies, says the idea for the film had percolated for some time.
"The social issue regarding sexual abuse was something I've wanted to draw attention to for a long time," he says. "I felt like it hasn't been represented on screen in the way that I wanted to show it, in a quiet, more understated and truthful manner, at least according to what I had researched. We've seen a lot of old person and young person funny road-person buddy comedies. I wanted to stay away from that and from the stereotypically curmudgeonly older person who doesn't want anything to do with the young person. I wanted to be honest to the characters."
There's a certain amount of subtlety in the film as we don't see exactly what MacKenzie's uncle does to make her run away. Green says it was important that the film didn't become too graphic.
"I think there are audience members, especially females, who have said they don't want it to go any further," he says. "I think we hit the right notes in portraying it. We filmed the scenes very mechanically. Everyone was great about that. It was important for me for the scene to fell real and natural. If that was achieved — and it was quiet and there was no music — the uncomfortability would carry it through and not take it any further. I also think that once he crosses a certain line, it doesn't matter what else he does."
The low-budget film doesn't have a huge marketing campaign behind it, but it has been a big hit on the festival circuit.
"We've been to over 150 film festivals," says Green. "I think we just won our 42nd best film award over the weekend. It's had a great festival run, which is great so [people who've seen it] can talk about it before the Sept. 25 release."
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