Walking Out

WALKING OUT,  US, 2017. Starring Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustadedter, Lily Gladstone. Directed by Alex Smith, Andrew J.Smith. 95 minutes.  Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language).

The title is to be taken very literally – not a walking out on someone or some difficult situation but rather a frontier story, people trapped in the wilds of nature, and having to walk out for survival.

The setting for this frontier film is the state of Montana, the Rockies and its mountains, the snow and ice, and the billboard at the local airport proclaiming that this is ‘Big Sky’ country.

A 14-year-old boy is on a small plane, with his phone playing computer games, of course, coming up from Texas where he lives with his mother to have an annual holiday with his father who works as a hunter in the region. Josh Wiggins gives a convincing performance as the boy, David.

His father, Cal, is played by Matt Bomer (who doesn’t look and seem quite ruggedly grizzled enough to have grown-up in the area and to be hunter in such terrain).

Clearly, this is going to be a film about father-son-son bonding, the 14-year-old rather unwilling (and having to give up his computer game playing), the father loving but demanding. David is to shoot his first moose. The boy is not such a good shot and, even practising shooting birds, misses more than hits.

This is even more than a father-son relationship film because there are continuous flashbacks throughout the film to Cal and his father, Clyde (Bill Pullman). Cal remembers being a little boy with his father but also as a 14-year-old and, eventually, revealing his own experience in shooting at a moose.

It has to be said that the scenic photography is beautiful, even when it is threatening.

Cal is very careful, noting tracks, instructing his son, confrontation with an elk, coming across a grizzly bear, later finding some wounded cubs. There are talks – and there is a moose (as well as carefree and callous tourists who just shoot for the sake of shooting and leave carcasses around, a contrast with Cal and his believing that hunting is for meat and supply).

Since the title indicates walking out, we know that there will be some difficulties encountered and, at times, these are graphic. In fact, the walking out aspect of the film is very visual, endurance for father and son which makes some endurance demands on the attention of the audience.

The experience is the making of the boy, not as we might have expected at the beginning, but the boy helping his father, appreciating his father more, which means that in future father-son relationships, David will have much to hand on to his son.

The directors of the film, Alex and Andrew J. Smith, are originally from England but clearly have made their home in Montana.

Dendy                                   Released April 5th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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