Hold the Dark (Jeremy Saulnier – 2018) A-

In a small Alaskan town a little boy goes missing, taken by wolves that roam the area presumably. The mom enlists a wolf expert who wrote a book about them (Jeffrey Wright) to find him. Where it goes from there is not by any means what one might expect. The mystery of the boy missing is really resolved in the first 20 minutes maybe before we delve into a superb psychological and possibly fantastical exploration of desolation, depression, violence, nature and man. The tone is very deliberate as Saulnier introduces and fleshes out the main themes. The father (Alexander Skarsgard) is in Afghanistan, is a man of few words and really violent tendencies. He is an apex predator. The mother, Medora, played so well by Riley Keough, is mysterious and just tough to pin down. We touch on Native American issues and their relationship with the community at large and law enforcement in particular. Really what the over arching theme here is the wolves. They are perfect for living in their environment. They hunt. They have a hierarchical system. They can kill and eat their young. The missing boy’s parents seem to mirror the wolves that roam the frozen landscape of this movie. They almost cannot live anywhere else either. This is not the most approachable of Saulnier’s films, but it works for me on many levels from its harsh landscapes and dim lighting to the slow pace, excellent performances and surreal aspects.

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