Written and directed by Bretten Hannam, Link and his brother flee their abusive father and embark on a journey where Link discovers his sexuality and rediscovers his Mi’kmaw heritage. Starring: Phillip Lewitski, Joshua Odjick, Avery Winters-Anthony, Michael Greyeyes, Steve Lund, Joel Thomas Hynes and Savonna Spracklin.
We don’t have enough queer coming of age, romance or drama films, and there definitely aren’t enough films that sincerely explore stories of indigenous people, Wildhood is a combination of all of them. It’s a blend of road trip, family issues and burgeoning sexuality, they’re all themes that audiences will be familiar with but with this story Bretten Hannam adds a completely new perspective. There’s a huge injection of culture, community and heritage which makes it feel entirely original and refreshing. It also strikes a wonderful balance of respecting the youth of its characters without ever sacrificing the depth to its emotions. While it may start off in more travelled territory, the moving nature to this story is a slow burn. It gives you the time to get to know Link (Phillip Lewitski), Pasmay (Joshua Odjick) and Travis (Avery Winters-Anthony) before developing the larger emotional issues at play, allowing them to hit harder.
Holding onto that youthfulness is something that Hannam’s direction does beautifully. It’s full of colour, energy and a vivacity, as well as a beautiful use of nature. There’s something surprisingly comforting about the way it presents this story, the direction has an established feel but also a very personal one. Additionally, it achieves something which few films have done which is to have a young, queer sex scene done gracefully, it’s such a sweet yet charged moment, encapsulating the vulnerability and curiosity of its characters. All of which is topped by a superbly done score from Neil Haverty, which goes hand in hand perfectly with all the emotions at work. It’s also an unusual and smart choice to not use subtitles when characters speak in the Miꞌkmaq language, instead translating it themselves.
On top of all that stellar work, you have the fantastic performances from the entire cast who are led terrifically by Phillip Lewitski and Joshua Odjick. The two have an absolutely instant chemistry which is filled to the max with their raging hormones, emotional issues and masculinity. Watching their relationship develop is a lovely experience, it’s natural and engaging. They embrace the wildness of their youth but also create a connection on a much deeper level. Both pushing each other away while realising that that’s the last thing they want. There’s also a brilliant supporting cast, starting with Avery Winters-Anthony as Travis who provides not only a little comic relief but also a caring nudge in the right direction for Link. Michael Greyeyes who’s an incredibly consistent actor and always has something to add. As well as Steve Lund and Savonna Spracklin who both make fairly brief appearances but are both emotional and memorable, particularly Spracklin.
Wildhood is quite possibly one of the best queer coming of age films made so far. It’s sweet and sincere but also emotionally charged to a superb degree. It’s stunningly shot, embracing the link to nature as well as their wild youth, with a style that’s intimate and has a great variety. It takes elements of a story we know and creates something new, refreshing and full of culture, heritage and moving drama.