Wildling is the latest film to be inspired by real-life abduction and imprisonment cases like that of Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Fritzl. While potentially exploitative, I find such movies – whether dramas like Room, dramedies like Brigsby Bear or horrors like Wildling – rich with the potential to examine our societal structure.
Wildling, which centres on teenager Anna (Bel Powley), raised since infancy by “Daddy” (Brad Dourif), fails to unlock that potential. I could quibble about Fritz Böhm’s muddy, uninspired direction. I could gripe about the vacancy of Powley’s character (giving little to someone so incandescent in The Diary of a Teenage Girl), or the acting of Liv Tyler – typically breathy, incredibly unconvincing – as her adoptive mum, Ellen.
The real problem with Wildling is its inability to really understand what its trying to excoriate. At the core of this film is a Ginger Snaps-esque fable about how female sexuality is feared, repressed and besieged by conventional society. But the film is so lazy in its characterisation and plotting – why is Anna released into Ellen’s care so easily? How is “Daddy” able to move freely after his capture? – that its attempt to nurture any kind of metaphor fails to take root.