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Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) have recently moved to Montana with their only son Joe (Ed Oxenbould). Jerry, an ex-golf pro, loses his job at the golf course and, needing a sense of purpose, decides to go off to fight a major wildfire that is burning in the nearby mountains for 1.00 per day. Jeanette and Joe are left to fend for themselves. Carey Mulligan is exceptional, and in many ways,  this is her film. The film is set around 1960, at a time when women were still expected to live by traditional norms. She wants more, and expects more, but feels more and more trapped in her role and circumstances. Her performance works as well as it does because of Oxenbould’s performance. The film is always told from his perspective; we learn as much as we do about Jeanette because of how her behavior is seen and interpreted by her son. In the absence of Jerry, she relies on Joe more and more for emotional support and sympathy; she sees Joe as almost a substitute for Jerry, yet Joe is just a 14-year-old boy who can’t always process what he is seeing. The film is a really impressive directorial debut from Paul Dano, who is himself an established and talented actor. He draws wonderful performances from his capable stars. Big thumbs up from me – I am not sure how I missed this one last year. (2019; 4 Stars)

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