AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

2/19/15

All The Wilderness Review: An Intimate Voyage Into Sound, Sorrow And Solitude


By Kaneisha Montague

All the Wilderness simply put, is a remarkable piece of art in every form. The film managed to create a musical beauty behind an intimate topic. A refreshing take on the subject of death; All the Wilderness explores the effect on a family after the passing of a father. There’s a nostalgic feel to this 2015 film, it reignites the importance of sound, and the film is artistically cradled by music. The actors’ commentary is simply complimentary; an art in silent films that other films may find difficult to capture. The scratches of James’ record player spinning old classical music are made important. Every sound is made more present than we are used to experiencing. The previous in it-self, set the tone for a film that gave a redefined meaning to noise.

Carl Sandburg’s poem “Wilderness” plays a pivotal role in the connection between the tales of the wilderness that James’ father used to tell him about and the coming to terms with James’ lost and acceptance of himself. “Each man’s wilderness is his own” his dad used to say.

Leaving behind a wife Abigail Charm (Virginia Madsen) and a coming-of-age son James Charm (Kodi Smit-McPhee), only the mother has seemed to begin to move past the tragedy but she believes her son has not “socially adjusted”. James becomes obsessed with death; documenting the death of everything/everyone around him; from house flies, to birds to his pet hamster Elliott. He worries his mother beyond the point of control, leaving her no choice but to take him to a shrink. James reluctantly attends his sessions with no desire of ever leaving his sarcasm at the door or give way for the doctor to explore his suppressed feelings.

As all coming of age films, a love interest is introduced, there in the shrink’s waiting room, we meet Val. The counterpart to what we have come to know of James; sarcastic and scarred from the past. Val opens up to James about her attempting to commit suicide after the divorce of her parents when she was 11. James fills Val in on the passing of his father. The two bond beyond romantic attraction. Along with his love interest, James meets two street kids Harmon (Evan Ross) and Gunny (Hannah Barefoot) who push him out of his shell and allow him to finally live and experience a more enjoyable type of darkness; alcohol, smoking, late nights, friends etc. James becomes destructive and disrespectful towards his mother, driving a rift between their already corrupted relationship.

Harmon’s friendship with James, we begin to notice, is equally beneficial. Harmon, a secret pianist, lets James into his musical world, which in turn sets Harmon free just as Harmon does for James. The two are torn apart when Harmon is caught kissing Val. Upset and confused, James returns to the shell of himself. Almost as if he’d witnessed death twice. With nowhere else to release, he finally confides in his shrink who then reveals that he himself knew of James’ father before he died. James is shocked by the fact that the shrink also adds that James is nothing like his father.

The film silently withholds the fact that James’ father committed suicide by jumping off of a city bridge. What’s even more chilling is James finally admitting to his mother that he witnessed the entire scene. James revisits the bridge and has finally come to the point in his journey where he is ready to accept and carry his father’s “wilderness”. “I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me.”

This riveting, must-see coming of age film with a musical twist on the intimate subject of suicide is well worth the watch. Indulge.

Kaneisha Montague is a filmmaker based in Metro Atlanta. She is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle.

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