During the summer of 1937, 11-year-old Ida lives in the countryside of Ontario with her older cousin Ben. Ida is isolated, speaking only French in a region of Canada that speaks primarily English, and her cousin is her primary intermediary between her and the world.
But her cousin’s attention and affection are soon consumed by his girlfriend Jane who has a clear dislike and annoyance with the little girl. As she cordons off Ben from his sister, Ida flees into the surrounding cornfields, where she makes a connection with a supernatural entity… one that may not be as benign as Ida thinks.
Writer-director Morgana McKenzie’s supernatural short leans less towards horror, instead presenting a dark, enchanting fairy tale about the fierce power of a child’s emotions and imagination. It ably evokes both an era past and an otherworldly milieu, making for a distinctive, satisfying mix of visuals and storytelling that is genuinely transportive to another tine and place, both historically and fantastically.
The film’s period aspect is beautifully evoked through evocative, almost sun-bleached cinematography, and pays careful attention to the styles and mores of the era. The historical past is interwoven beautifully with the narrative, using the schism between Canada’s two languages as a believable obstacle to Ida’s ability to connect and engage with the world around her. By speaking only French, she puts more weight onto her relationship with her cousin, who is the only person who can speak with her.
When her cousin is pulled away by his romance with Jane, Ida seeks connection elsewhere, to a strange, powerful entity in the cornfields that comes alive in the night. This supernatural milieu shifts the visual register of the film into a bold, vivid direction, full of richly fantastical color, lighting and details, which form a rich contrast to Ida’s more muted daylight world. Both visual sides of the film represent Ida’s two lives, one where she feels pushed away and marginal and one where she feels powerfully cared for and listened to.
Young performer Neve Guenette offers an understated, uncanny performance as Ida, portraying not just her desire for connection but the resentment and sadness that she can’t give voice to and must suppress in her everyday life. Such repression is dangerous, though, and when the entity begins to take on Ida’s pain and becomes an extension of her most powerful, dark impulses, those two sides collide in a suspenseful, gripping climax.
“Wild” is notable for its visual stylishness and its blend of drama and horror, but it’s also a powerful, emotionally intimate portrayal of the inner life of children, who have an innate need to be seen, heard and reflected by their loved ones. The fantastical aspect of the story literalizes when those needs aren’t met and can’t be communicated, driving the story into unique, engaging directions. But like many effective horror films, its monsters and demons are grounded in a difficult emotional truth. In this film, it’s the ferocious sadness of childhood neglect and loneliness, felt by those who in real life are often too young or powerless to make their needs known — and whose pain and anger are often silenced by the world around them.