All the Wilderness review by Michelle Sommerville - Cinema Paradiso
Let’s face it: those teenage years are hard. All the Wilderness is a great coming-of-age film that, while some of its themes could be seen as cliche, remains engaging and insightful throughout. I give it four out of five stars, and heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone.
All the Wilderness is an American film that follows a teenager named James (Kodi Smit-McPhee). After his father dies, James is raised by his now-single mother, and has regular visits with a psychiatrist (DeVito). These sessions do little to help him, but it is here that he meets Val, and sets off on a path to self-discovery. Rebelling against his mother, James, Val, and Harmon venture into the streets, discovering there are many types of wildernesses to explore.
This is by far not the first coming-of-age film, and getting a right balance of story and emotion is difficult, but this film definitely succeeded. It did not fall into melodrama, or portray anyone of any age in an unrealistic light.
There are actors who spend years - if not decades - running to auditions and struggling to find roles. Then you have Kodi Smit-McPhee, who has been acting since he was ten years old; with his first major job when he was only thirteen. Unlike other child actors, Kodi has continued to further his acting career, and his performance in All the Wilderness shows how great he can be.
With the film mainly focusing on Kodi’s character, it is surprising to see the ‘lesser-roles’ go to bigger name actors. Danny DeVito plays his psychiatrist, and yet the focus of the scenes cannot be taken from the young actor.
Filming in forests can bring some absolutely stunning visuals, but would come with its share of difficulties. First-time director/writer Michael Johnson has shown his creativity and talent, and I can’t wait to see what projects he is going to create next.
The dialogue was realistic and touching. It wasn’t over-the-top trying to sound like teenagers, and instead sounded like young adults searching for meaning and understanding from life.
All the Wilderness has faired average in critic and audience reviews. Some claim it didn’t pack much of a punch, and could have explored the issues in much deeper depth. However, it is almost a consensus view that Kodi was phenomenal, and the film was visually pleasing.
I find it incredibly hard to find something bad to say about this film. It is not an action-packed thriller that will get your heart racing, but it weaves an interesting tale with true meaning. I recommend it, and can’t wait to see more of Kodi’s works.