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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Wildhood ****

Starring: Phillip Lewitski, Joshua Odjick, Avery Winters-Anthony

Director: Bretten Hannam

Country: Canada

Link (Lewitski) is an angry teenager living with an abusive father. Having spent years believing that his mother was dead, the discovery that this is a lie sends him travelling across Nova Scotia with his brother (Winters-Anthony) to find her. On their way, they encounter openly two-spirit Pasmay (Odjick), who becomes the guide on their journey, only to become something much more meaningful too. Link has bleached his hair to conceal his Native American heritage, of which he knows very little, but through Pasmay he encounters a community that want to help and nurture him; something that he has never experienced before.

This is a story of self-discovery and reconnection with Link’s indigenous roots, coming of age among people that couldn’t be more different from where he grew up. For a film about such an angry character, this is actually a life-affirming reawakening. Link has suffered great hardship but finds renewal in both his newfound birthright and his burgeoning relationship with Pasmay. And it is the latter that is the most compelling to watch, with their edging toward intimacy charged with a sweet but intense electricity. And it’s refreshing to see the connotations of these developing feelings barely cross Link’s mind; he likes him and that’s all there is to it.

Like most good road-trip movies, the physical journey they travel becomes a metaphorical personal journey too. Set against the backdrop of the Canadian east-coast, the wildness of Link is framed perfectly against the wildness of the landscape, captured with earnest grandiose but gloomy cinematography. The action is lifted by an uplifting soundtrack, enriched with music that reflects both the landscape and the characters’ Mi’kmaq origins and together, these elements combine to showcase a real confident filmmaker working at their best in what is actually their feature debut.

From furious despondency to elated bliss, Link’s journey delivers the full pantheon of emotions. With a powerful central performance, this is a subtle and nuanced film that vividly brings to the screen a profoundly personal journey of cultural re-engagement. Delivered unsensationally but with an abundance of feeling, this is a starkly realistic film that might be driving home a socio-economic agenda, but also doesn’t hold back on the romance.

UK Release: 2nd September 2022 in cinemas and on VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures


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