The titular Wildland evoked by Jeanette Nordahl’s feature is both the expansive Danish scenery and the inner workings of family dysfunction. After her alcoholic mother dies in a car accident, Ida is sent to live with an aunt she barely knows. Her new family’s values are markedly different – and at first, they seem an escape from Ida’s troubled childhood. When situations go south, however, she is forced to choose between these bonds and her own survival.

Sandra Guldberg Kampp’s Ida acts as both emotional centre and audience surrogate as she adjusts to life in her new home. Her performance is impressively understated, letting Ida’s playfulness and youth come through in the good moments but making very clear the fact that this young woman has, from a young age, learned to show no weakness or disturbance. As these situations escalate, the camera stays trained on her subtlest reactions instead of cutting to the violence. This choice – supported by a sound design with beats and drones mimicking hearts, lungs, and restless minds – is captivating. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent; in particular, Sidse Babett Knudsen, who lets a vulnerability and fear slip through Aunt Bodil’s outward confidence.

Wildland is occasionally exhilarating, often tense, and achingly human, but the coda pulls the rug out from under characters and viewers right when the worst appears to have been averted. Ida may mostly escape this devastation, but the sickening implications are clear: the destructive familial cycle continues in the next generation. The severity of this tragedy does not quite seem warranted, undercutting any sense of growth.

Wildland is a tightly constructed drama that elicits sympathy for its imperfect, unhealthily entwined family through understated central performances. It may not entirely earn its brutal finale, but its interrogation and understanding of family’s often hidden fragility is notable.

RATING: 3/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove, Besir Zeciri

DIRECTOR: Jeanette Nordahl

WRITER: Ingeborg Topsøe

SYNOPSIS: Having recently lost her mother in a car accident, Ida has been taken in by her aunt and three cousins, whom she barely knows and who have very different ways of living.

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