Howard has a loving wife (Garner), two daughters, a prestigious job as a Manhattan lawyer, and a comfortable home in the suburbs. But inwardly he's suffocating, and eventually he snaps and goes into hiding in his garage attic leaving his family to wonder what happened to him. He observes them from his window - an outsider spying in on his own life - as the days of exile stretch into months. Is it possible to go back to the way things were? Written by
Modern adults flirt with this idea of leaving everything behind and starting again from scratch, this kind of ideology has been used in pieces of Americana to include tales of the mountain man. A single solitary figure who is seemingly in control of his own destiny, even if it's a solitary one. "Wakefield" is a film that negotiates these ideas of solitude, abandonment and puts a voyeuristic spin on the concept. Writer and director Robin Swicord known for writing such great films as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008) "The Jane Austen Book Club" (2007) and "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005) brings her adaptation of loneliness and love to the big screen in "Wakefield".
Howard Wakefield (Brian Cranston) is a successful attorney who specializes in litigation, although a quite lucrative profession it does not stimulate Howard in a way that is fulfilling. Howards has a wife Diana Wakefield (Jennifer Garner) and a pair of twin daughters who how feels resents him. Day in and day out Howard feels as if his contributions to the family are either unnoticed or under appreciated. Until one day things change and a power outage and long day at work leads him to seek refuge in the garage, where he stays.
Quickly the world of Howard turns from the bustling and safe life of a New York attorney, husband and father of two, to a secluded hermit. Spying on his former life from the discomforts of his own garage. Robin Swicord's adaptation of a short story from E.L. Doctrow comes to life as a film whom convention is void. Having been shot over 21 days "Wakefield" show cases the true magic in movie making by being able to do so much with so little time. The scenes of Cranston looking through the garage at his family where filmed in entirely different locations as the Garner scenes. Having to rely on the use of a video monitor Cranston invoked the raw emotions of a self-displaced father falling in love with his family again.
The Wakefield story has no rhyme or reason to its insanity, yet it voices the idea of alienation that fathers can feel in an all-female household. There is a disconnect that Howard internalizes, this is undeniable in its existence. This alienation is so strong that the allure of freedom seems lucrative to him, and when he gets his chance, he grabs it. Freedom is expensive, and Howard quickly and all to easily learns humbling lessons of survival, which ultimately teaches him the meaning as well as the cost of freedom. The story of Howard is a story of self-discovery, through pain, learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This new found ideology of freedom gives him a new outlook on the world around him which ultimately effects Howards outlook on life itself.
Wonderfully shot and done with a modest budget, "Wakefield" is a joy to watch, with all the unconventionality of "Benjamin Button" there is a window opened up in the soul of a suburban white male who has had enough. As unique a story as Swicord presents, it is not far off of the minds of fathers across the nation that often flirt or fantasize with the idea of under appreciation and the joy of watching others try and pick up the void their absence leaves behind.
Ultimately "Wakefield" is about abandoning all that is held sacred in search of a true meaning of self. The idea that Howard can leave everything behind is liberating and ultimately sets him free. But the real question the film asks, is what will he do with this new found freedom? Brian Cranston plays a convincing modern mountain man, so well that its uneasy to watch how effortlessly he can simply walk away from his family, his life and all that he has spent years creating, and perfecting. The story plays out like a house of cards tumbling to the floor, there is a recognition of how much work went into creating it, yet it is exhilarating and strangely fulfilling to watch it all fall down. Wakefield is this strange sense of fulfillment, that leaves a sense of happiness through chaos. Sometimes it's fun to flirt with madness and anarchy, sometimes it's just fun to let the whole house come crashing down.
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