Austin Film Festival 2022: THE WILD MAN

After reading the synopsis, I viewed The Wild Man film anticipating one type of story and found it to deeper and more meaningful about the father and son relationship, caregiving and including complications of additional family members when decisions must be made.

The Wild Man is written and directed by Riley Cusick and stars Cusick himself in the title role of Scott Treadwell, a young man who has taken care of his father Jeff (Jeff Cusick), since he was 18 or so, with little social life because of the mental health issues the elder has. In this story, after several years of caregiving the situation has evolved to where Scott must decide next steps for the care of his father. This is easier said than done as many caregivers can attest.

Scott’s father believes he is a bear, he identifies as such wearing a costume 24/7, and his behavior can veer into that of a wild animal. He doesn’t want to function as a human most of the time and can be scary more than violent towards all (as seen in some film shots). Scott’s father has not verbally communicated in quite a while, but he and Scott have their understanding. He doesn’t take his bear suit off, so there is a question of cleansing and being sanitary that does arise when visiting health centers.

Scott considers the need for professional help dealing with his father and begins to act on it, knowing full well it will go opposite to his father’s wish to live outdoors/away from most humans. Uncle Walter Treadwell (Larry Fessenden) is an alcoholic and is not very supportive, and yet shows up and starts to push Scott to place him in a facility. His attitude and behavior frustrate Scott to the point of indecision and almost confrontation. The acting is spot on to demonstrate Scott needs some respite from the caregiving duties that have consumed his life and has affected his job duties too. Many caregivers also deal with feelings of guilt when they seek professional help or placement in a facility. Fessenden’s portrayal of a family member with “an opinion” at critical times is excellent as well. Unfortunately, these family members insert themselves in these decisions and yet stay out of helping with providing care when most needed. There is a very good scene when Uncle Walter shares his feelings about his ill brother and the family.

A bright light for Scott is when he meets Jackie Foster (Jenna Kanell, Terrifier 2) quite by accident when his father runs out into the night and into Jackie’s home. She is helpful and sympathetic to Scott’s plight. They bond over her father’s needs but is careful to keep Scott at a distance for her own reason and needs. Kanell delivers a very good performance and is very effective in conveying setting and keeping her boundaries. She does an excellent job with the character in managing both men and that seems to make her wiser than her young age. She portrays a character who has lived her life and the experiences have matured her, giving Scott a reason to dig in and want more from her/with her. It is evident he too needs time to regroup although he can’t understand that in the moment.

The Wild Man had the World Premiere at the Austin Film Festival. This is Cusick’s sophomore feature. Information on upcoming release dates and where to view the film will be shared when available.

Source: The Last Motel

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