A New Kind Of Wilderness


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

A New Kind Of Wilderness
"A heartfelt film." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The Payne family live a free-range lifestyle on a rural farm in Norway, where Norwegian photographer mum Maria and British dad Nik live with their kids Freya, Falk and Ulv as well as older daughter Ronja, from Maria’s first marriage. The children are home schooled and encouraged to spend as much time in the great outdoors as possible. But when illness strikes, the family suddenly finds itself without a matriach and director Silje Evensmo Jacobsen follows the family as they work through their grief while trying to find the best way forward for all of them.

This is a heartfelt film that keeps mum Maria in the picture via blog entries she made and some of the wonderful photographs she took. These are well edited into the flow of the film by Kristian Tveit and Kristoffer Heie. She conveys the sense of freedom experienced by her children and the ideals that underpin her philosophy. In the wake of her death, however, the isolation of the family becomes more acutely apparent as Ronja leaves the farm to live with her dad in the city and Nik, who is facing financial difficulties without the double income, begins to consider whether he should take his clan back to England.

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Silje Evensmo Jacobsen follows them on a path to a compromise, of sorts, as the children start to attend school and Ronja, elsewhere, works through her grief in her own fashion. Evensmo Jacobsen has obviously gained a high amount of trust with the Nik and his kids, who open up to her about their hopes and fears. Ronja’s other family, however, aren’t involved and that does lead the film to feel a little uneven in places, since we’re less aware of what’s going on in her life.

Jacobsen generally has a light touch, but as the film progresses there is also an increasing sense of her leaning in to make sure she doesn’t miss the emotion, which feels borderline intrusive in places, especially when it comes to Ronja, perhaps subconsciously trying to make up for the part of her life she is unable to convey.

Her even-handed approach pays off more generally, however, as it allows the pros and cons of the family’s lifestyle to emerge as Nik starts to shift to a new reality that involves his kids taking part in some formal education that brings computer screens into their lives. A film whose small scope nontheless contains big emotions.

Reviewed on: 20 Jan 2024
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In a forest in Norway, a family lives an isolated lifestyle in an attempt to be wild and free, but a tragic event changes everything, and they are forced to adjust to modern society.

Director: Silje Evensmo Jacobsen

Year: 2024

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Norway

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