No good comes from denying the self. If it seems like a thing easier said than done, that’s because it is. Living in a trailer park with his abusive father and staring down a road or petty crime and everything that follows, Wildhood is the story of a young man who is in so much self-denial that he is dying his hair blond in an effort to distance himself from his indigenous heritage, and that’s before he even begins to examine his sexuality.
The young man is Link (Phillip Lewitski), and he is in pain. He doesn’t know who he is, and what little he does know is likely to inspire his father to abuse him more than anything else. Then again, it doesn’t seem like his father needs an excuse anyway. After a particularly bad week that involves both a night in prison and a beating, Link discovers that his mother, a Mi’kmaw woman named Sarah, isn’t dead as his father told him but instead left and is alive. Furious, he and his little brother Travis (Avery Winters-Anthony) set out on a quest to find her.
Along the way, they meet Pasmay (Joshua Odjick), a pow wow dancer, who joins them on the quest after helping them escape their abusive father. The journey takes them across the province and toward Links mother, but also –as expected– directly into Link’s soul.
Through his relationship with Pasmay, Link slowly begins to accept his whole self, not only as an indigenous person but as a two-spirit. The films best moments, and the ones that require the most from the actors, aren’t big or loud ones, but rather all the quiet and unspoken moments between the two as they slowly figure out who the other is and what they are to each other.
It’s refreshing that the film focuses on Links story, to the point where he is well on his way to self-acceptance before he finds his mother and that there’s no big moment of conflict. The film instead takes the quiet, introspective route. I’m dancing around how all this resolves, which is fitting since that is how it ends for Link, Pasmay (and Travis), with a joyful dance on the beach.
Wildhood is a slow burn, but one that pays off. Its slow pace is deliberate, and while it might make the middle of the film feel a little overlong, it also makes the end all the more impactful.
Wildhood played as part of the 2021 Festival du Nouveau Cinema de Montreal. It also previously played as part of the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival.