Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a dissociated teenager trying to navigate his way through life. He has shut himself off from the world and rejects the help of his mother. Despite regular therapy sessions he struggles to find the direction he so desperately needs, but when he crosses paths with a homeless busker he discovers a subversive world of alcohol and drugs, and meets a girl who helps him put his life into perspective.
The story is simple enough, and were it to be told in a simple way its impact would be lost. Thankfully director Michael Johnson uses every trick in his book to create what is best described as an experimental artistic expression. Music by Jonsi & Alex (from Sigur Ros) sweeps across most of the film, with other alternative outfits such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sonic Youth and Blouse helping to create a kinetic atmosphere. With a strong marriage of sound and vision the style of film blends with the narrative and makes for a transcending experience.
Kodi Smit-McPhee is excellent in the lead and he delivers a heartfelt performance that showcases an impressive emotional range. The supporting cast also strong, with Danny DeVito's turn as the unassuming psychologist being an obvious standout. His screen time is limited to two scenes, however, his on-screen presence is unmistakable and his role provides a pivotal maker-point for the young character's journey.
ALL THE WILDERNESS is an unfeigned drama without any pretensions and avoids all of the sappy melodramatic trappings. It stirs reminders of titles like THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER and AUGUST RUSH, and impresses with its mixed bag of stylistic tricks.