No matter how hard we try to define the meaning of marriage, I don’t think any of us can come close to phrasing it in the right way. Movies like “Wildlife” serve as proof that when, for instance, a relationship does not work or fails due to financial difficulties, that’s when the true problem begins.
Jean and Jerry are married; can’t say happily though. They both raise their son Joe and continue the struggle to make their ends meet. While Jean stays at home, it is Jerry who provides for the family, good or bad. Throughout their on-screen relationship we don’t see Jean or Jerry hugging each other, kissing or even holding hands. They act like strangers even though they live under the same roof. Jerry, of course, has his own pride when, for instance, he was fired from a low paid job due to stepping over his boundaries with customers and refused to return to the same job when the management apologized for making such a mistake.
That, I guess, is the starting point for Jean to begin reconsidering her life with Jerry. And if she was having second thoughts, Jerry makes it easier for her to make a decision when he decides to fight the wildfire which puts an end to her patience and she starts looking around for more stability in another man. The most heartbreaking moment of the film begins when Joe watched his family falling apart along with the marriage of his parents that seems to be no longer working.
Paul Dano’s directorial debut is a fascinating attempt as he manages to touch that subtle relationship between the three when you, at some point, will begin analyzing the entire movie beyond what the director simply could offer. And that was the plan of course which was working throughout. Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as a married couple are powerful. They both deliver that emptiness of a marriage that could be devastating and damaging more than the wildfire Jerry went to fight against. And that is another way of describing a wild life, which must be taken care of very carefully, to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.