Wildlike – A Review & Observation on Empathy

As Sexual Assault Awareness month winds down, my husband and I attended a viewing of Wildlike at The Lyric Cinema Theater, a local film spot in Old Town Fort Collins.

We weren’t sure what to expect but of course, my hubby is always interested in a movie filmed in the wilderness. There was no letdown in this area. The movie provided a grand visual experience of the picturesque expanse of Alaska.  Denali is now on my bucket list!

The plot itself is quite heavy as it deals with sexual abuse. Yet it did so without being sleazy and all the while, being so very real. The eventual friendship developed by the two main characters is inspirational, without being sappy.

Most of the story is told in the silence. Indeed, it is a quiet movie, yet quite engaging. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the theater during the final scene between the two main characters.

Bruce Greenwood was superb in his portrayal of Rene, a man conflicted over his ability to help this young girl and yet not exactly knowing what she is running from.  His greatest scenes don’t involve much dialogue. You can see it clearly in his eyes and expressions, especially as he finds solid evidence of that which he already knew was true. I am not sure this could have been pulled off by anyone else.

Using the concept “The good, the bad and the ugly”, to give an account of my experience, I have switched it up so as to finish with the good. Because that’s just how I roll.

The Bad

After young Mackenzie’s father dies, her mother has developed a drug problem and is checking into a treatment center.  Mackenzie is then sent to Alaska to stay with her uncle, whom she barely knows.

Mackenzie is obviously a troubled young woman. This is an important observation one must understand. Most victims of sexual abuse are troubled youth, who are generally not believed when they speak up or are convinced that they are the ones at fault. It is easy for a predator to manipulate young people such as these.

Mackenzie’s perpetrator is her uncle. Another important observation. The majority of sexual abuse is perpetrated by a family member who lives in the home of their victim.

In regard to the two above observations, Mackenzie’s uncle does indeed manipulate her. First by purchasing her a mobile phone and being the “cool” uncle. After the abuse, he then tries to “assure” Mackenzie that he is trying to protect her from the damages caused by “her” actions.

After Mackenzie runs away, she becomes adamant that the police not be involved. She is of course, convinced that they will not believe her – though she never says so, it is well communicated in her firm stance when Rene suggests calling the cops.

The Ugly

Again, the film avoids being too graphic, however, the scenes in which Mackenzie’s uncle enters her bed are quite disturbing. As they should be. Sexual abuse is ugly. If you don’t catch some uncomfortable feels at this point, you might not be alive. These very few (thank God) scenes create a strong awareness.

In one of the scenes, Mackenzie tries to offer sex to Rene. This attempt, of course, is made in silence. Rene is appalled and communicates this  – not so silently. The reality of this scene is many victim/survivors of sexual abuse will offer themselves up as a way of getting what they want or thanking someone for help. It is another ugly truth. Fortunately, for Mackenzie, she has found a decent friend in Rene.

Oh! It_s Friday again. Share the love that was missing during the week. In a worthy moment of peace and bliss. S. O_SadeRead more_ https_www.spiritbutton.comfriday-weekend-q

The Good

I recently took a free Trauma Informed training given by Matt Bennett, Chief Innovation Officer at Coldspring Center. Having seen this movie two days before the training, I was identifying much of Matt’s talk with some of the film’s characters.

For myself, the most intriguing part of this lecture was when Matt spoke of “passive trauma experienced due to lack of support, empathy, and compassion that the person receives from society.”[1] The character Rene, fortunately, was one who, though unwillingly at first, stepped up and supported a young lady in dire need of help.

In contrast to an ugly world which includes sexual assault, the magnificent vistas of Alaska spoke “quietly” and powerfully of this world’s greater beauty. Rene and Mackenzie’s unspoken words spoke loudly of the beauty of the true connection we humans have in the way we offer up empathy toward one another.

Sometimes, there is no need to vocalize empathy and love. When a fellow human is in need of help, just being there and listening to the spoken and unspoken words are paramount in helping that person get through their traumatic experience.

There is much more to this, but I don’t want to ruin the whole story. You should just go see it…and Stay Blissful my friends – E


If you liked this,  check out: https://livingelysian.com/2016/11/06/let-go-keep-going-or-start-over/

  1. http://coldspringcenter.org/mattsmumblings.html