Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sundance with Abe: Wild Indian

I’m thrilled to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the eighth time. This year, I’m not in Park City, Utah, but watching films virtually and reviewing them as soon as I can.

Wild Indian
Directed by Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
U.S. Dramatic Competition

People shouldn’t necessarily be judged by their actions as children since they learn from the model of their parents and other adults in their lives and haven’t had the chance to grow into who they are. Maturity may bring a revised perspective, one that reveals mistakes made and offers the opportunity for learning based on what they’ve done. Some moments may be extremely formative in shaping the course of someone’s life, and while it may be possible to redirect a trajectory, not every step is within a person’s control and can have irreversible consequences.

Makwa (Phoenix Wilson) is bullied at school, frequently beaten at home, and has only one friend, Ted-O (Julian Gopal). When Makwa kills another classmate in the woods and expresses no emotion about it, the two cover it up and tell no one. Years later, Makwa (Michael Greyeyes) is a successful businessman now known as Michael who lives with his wife (Kate Bosworth) in a very fancy home. Ted-O (Chaske Spencer) has been in prison for years, and emerges with tattoos all over his face and neck prepared to make amends for what he has done, inspired to do things right and to salvage what’s left of his life.

This is a film that has a lot to do with the Anishinaabe heritage that Makwa and Ted-O share that influences how many people see them. Makwa’s work colleague Jerry (Jesse Eisenberg) is particularly aware of the few pieces of his identity that he chooses to share, careful as he is about how he acknowledges that. Makwa, now Michael, doesn’t want to be defined or restricted by his cultural identity or physical appearance, a luxury that Ted-O can’t afford since his job prospects are limited due to his criminal record and a very different track than his former best friend’s.

This is a dark, uninviting film, one that presents two unalike characters who stemmed from similar experiences and navigated extremely divergent paths. Makwa is cold and unfriendly, so obsessed with maintaining a façade that there’s no depth or sincerity to the relationships he forms. Ted-O, on the other hand, is far more sympathetic, even if he has few prospects. The performances are solid here, but the film, like Makwa, is gruff and difficult to penetrate, far too grounded in its own grimness to tell a truly compelling or accessible story.


No comments: