The Reel Review


Abandoned by a mother in drug rehab and sent to live with her uncle in Alaska, 14-year-old Mackenzie soon finds herself running away from an unbearable situation in this outdoor adventure/drama. Desperate, scared, and alone, she meets a widower backpacking through Denali National Park, who restores her faith in humanity as she seeks to return to an uncertain future back in Seattle.

Ella Purnell and Bruce Greenwood in Wildlike.

The story from writer/director Frank Hall Green navigates a sensitive topic, and the related emotional trauma, in a realistic, straightforward way. There are no crazy plot twists or far-fetched scenarios – just the growing curiosity of how this young girl is going escape what looks like a bleak future. With that harshness juxtaposed against the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Maleficent) brings to life the despair of teenagers trapped with little to no options due to circumstances beyond their control.

Bruce Greenwood and Ella Purnell in Wildlike.

Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Thirteen Days, Doctor Sleep) gives the story its foundation, bringing a reassuring, fatherly calm to his role as the curmudgeonly hiker. Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hereditary) and Tom Okamoto also are excellent in supporting roles, in an optimistic film with a poignant ending and a simple but important message – that there still are good, helpful people in the world who consistently will do the right thing, even when no one is watching.


• Atlanta-born writer/director Frank Hall Green chose the campsite settings for his characters in Wildlike based on where he camped with his wife during their 2003 backpacking trip to Denali National Park. He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.

• British actress Ella Purnell spoke only in her American accent from the moment she got off the plane in Alaska, during all six weeks of production, and until she got back on the plane to London.

Ann Dowd with her Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale, and in 2008’s Marley & Me.

• Ann Dowd, who won a 2017 Emmy for her role of Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale, was veterinarian Dr. Platt in 2008’s Marley & Me. 


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