This isn’t so much a review of Where the Wild Things Are as a justification of a theory. The theory? That the film, Jonze’s third, is at its core a tale of the erosion of the notion of “home” from a child’s perspective. Max, its prepubescent protagonist, finds the tendrils of adulthood encroaching upon him. His sister sees him as a nuisance. His mother (Catherine Keener) loves him deeply, but her attention is diverted by her new lover (Mark Ruffalo). The concept of “home” as a place of unquestioning, unreserved welcome is beginning to crumble for Max.
This is mirrored in visual motifs of destruction throughout. We first find Max constructing an igloo in the snow. But when he retreats to it for sanctuary from older teenagers, it collapses under their weight, leaving him in tears. When Max first meets Carol (James Gandolfini), their friendship is forged through destruction of the makeshift huts that the wild things call home. As king, Max promises to rebuild a home – a fortress – where they can sleep in a “big pile.” It’s not long before reality intrudes, and community construction degrades into conflict. Max learns, as us “adults” know, that home isn’t home forever.