In ‘Meadowland,’ Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson play the parents of a young boy who goes missing. It’s a riveting film — and Wilde’s most demanding role yet. (Tribeca Film Fest photo)
The best thing about sad movies is they can make you feel grateful your life is not in crisis. “Meadowland” is a great example of this. It’s about the unthinkable. Sarah (Olivia Wilde) and Phil (Luke Wilson) are parents of a young boy (Casey Walker) who goes missing while the family is on vacation.
When my best friend died, the grief left me bedridden for weeks and unable to tend to the most basic things like making coffee or doing laundry. I can only imagine how crippling it is to lose a child. With Etan Patz, a 6-year-old New Yorker who disappeared in 1979, in the news again, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.
“Meadowland” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. It is the study of grief and how differently people experience it. Sarah, a schoolteacher, seems to experience the gamut: shock, depression, denial, anger. Her police officer husband Phil seems focused on anger and sorrow, but he has the good sense to seek out help. There is little he can do as he watches his wife spiral out of sanity.
Sarah is having a breakdown. We watch it worsening as the movie cuts to one year after the abduction. She becomes boundary-less with students; one is a girl who is cutting herself and the other a lonely autistic boy mocked by his classmates. Sarah is overmedicated and untreated. She won’t go for help. She won’t even accept that her child is not coming back. She paces the streets in a yellow sweatshirt. Sarah cracks up in front of her class and is escorted out.
Wilde and Luke Wilson. (Tribeca Film Festival photo)
Adding to the strength of the film is its talented cast, which includes Kevin Corrigan, John Leguizamo, Elisabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple and Merrit Wever.
Throughout the film, I was riveted. It’s like a horrific car accident you cannot look away from, and this is the most demanding role in Wilde’s career. At the screening, I wondered how the story affected Wilde as a new mom to 11-month-old Otis, whom she had with her fiance, actor Jason Sudeikis.
“When I first read it, I wasn’t yet a mother, but then it changed dramatically once I became pregnant,” Wilde confided in amNew York’s Niki Cruz. “I thought, ‘Now this is really difficult for me to imagine’ and as [my son] Otis grows, the film is harder and harder for me to watch, and I definitely think that connection [director] Reed Morano and I had definitely involved us being mothers. I felt like I wasn’t going through it alone.” Wilde added that it was difficult to leave the character behind.
This is a first in the director’s chair for Morano, but she has years of experience as a cinematographer in films like “Kill Your Darlings” and “The Skeleton Twins.”
This year’s TFF had the highest percentage of female directors. Women made up 33 percent! Every one of these feature films had a female director: