Beautifully shot with solid performances, Wildhood offers a touching story of two indigenous brothers on a trip in search of their First Nation Mother.

Film Review: Wildhood

Film Reviews

Director: Bretten Hannam

Rebel Road Films

Wildhood is one of the films featured as part of last week’s Damn These Heels! Queer Film Festival, organized by the Utah Film Center. It is about a young Mi’kmaq man, Link (Phillip Forest Lewitski), who flees with his younger brother Travis (Avery Winters-Anthony) from their abusive father in order to find Link’s mother, who he discovers is still alive after stumbling across unopened birthday cards hidden in his father’s room.

While on the road, the brothers happen upon Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), another Mi’kmaq who seems more aligned with (and proud of) his First Nations ancestry; he carries around a set of regalia intended for the Mawiomi, a pow-wow held by the Mi’kmaq people in which he dances every year.

The introduction of Pasmay to the group quickly underlines one of the main themes of the film; Link is searching for his First Nations mother but is also seeking a sense of belonging and identity denied him by his upbringing. Growing up with his abusive, white father, Link appears unaccustomed to (if not ashamed of) his Mi’kmaq ancestry—he doesn’t speak Mi’kmawi’simk and has dyed his hair blonde. That Pasmay seems to speak their language fluently and is clearly well-versed in their native traditions resonates with Link, but it also highlights his insecurities around his upbringing. The situation is complicated further by the developing romantic relationship between the two, creating further tension as Link is also forced to confront yet another aspect of himself that he hasn’t been able to safely express as a result of his circumstance.

Beautifully shot with solid performances, Wildhood’s only notable shortcoming is that it at times treats its heavier emotional scenes flippantly—conflict between the characters often seems forced: Link’s headstrong outbursts toward Pasmay and other well-meaning people shoot a few scenes in the foot. A conversation with a social worker quickly turns sour when she explains to Link that she cannot divulge personal information on his mother’s whereabouts; the response cuts short what seemed like would have been one of the emotional centerpieces of the film, as instead, their journey hits a dead end. 

Wildhood’s pacing allows these non-starter moments to be quickly forgiven and forgotten; however, as it is otherwise full of rich one-off performances by Native American/First Nations actors (including one by the always-great (Michael Greyeyes).  Link’s heartwarming journey of self-discovery as a member of the First Nations and LGBTQ+ communities adds a unique cloth to the already eclectic quilt of queer cinema, and Wildhood is a strong entry in Damn These Heels! quality 2022 slate of films. –Brandon Ermer

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