Review: Meadowland

Olivia Wilde in Meadowland

Meadowland is a drama about losing a child and how individuals deal with grief. It received glowing reviews when it first came out, I was eager to see it. The opportunity finally arrived with Netflix adding Meadowland to its lineup. 

In the first few moments of the movie, Phil (Luke Wilson) and Sarah (Olivia Wilde) have their son snatched away while they are at a gas station. They realize he’s missing within minutes, but he’s nowhere to be found.

The film then jumps ahead a year. We see how Phil and Sarah are coping. Not coping is more accurate.

Sarah is a teacher. Phil is a cop. They live in a cramped apartment in New York City.

Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson in Meadowland
Even when touching, they are disconnected

Their grief drives them apart. Sarah is convinced their son Jessie (Casey Walker) is alive and being cared for. Phil searches for clues and evidence. A cop played by Nick Sandow brings them news of the investigation from time to time. Sarah won’t even look at it.

Sarah becomes less and less able to cope. She buys razor blades and cuts her arm. She listens to loud metal music when she should be teaching. She does drugs with Phil’s brother Tim (Giovanni Ribisi). She walks the city at night for hours in a yellow hoodie. She doesn’t eat.

She becomes obsessed with a student named Adam (Ty Simpkins).

She follows Adam. She follows his foster mother (Elisabeth Moss), who apparently turns tricks in a gas station bathroom. She follows Adam’s foster father (Kevin Corrigan) and has sex with him.

Then Sarah steals Adam’s foster father’s car, picks up Adam, and drives around with him. She’s not clear about why she has him or where she’s going. In these climactic scenes with Sarah and Adam in this weird walkabout, Sarah gets a horrific phone call from Phil. And there’s a thing with an elephant.

Elephants are mentioned numerous times in the film. They are obviously meant to symbolize something – but what? Sarah eyeball to eyeball with a giant, placid beast who looks even sadder than she obviously meant something – but what? Somehow it was comforting to Sarah, but I’m not totally clear about why. I don’t know if this is a failure on my part or if the symbolism is just to0 obscure for the average bear.

Olivia Wilde as Sarah disintegrates, disappears. Olivia Wilde is normally skinny, but she seems to get even thinner as the film progresses. She’s agonized bone and nothing more.

All the performances in this dark, brooding story were brilliantly done. But the film belongs to Olivia Wilde. Her performance was absolutely stellar. Her expressions, her body language, her breathing, her voice – everything she does radiates pain. Why she wasn’t nominated for some acting awards for Meadowland is a mystery.

Many big actors appeared in this film in tiny parts. I already mentioned Elisabeth Moss, Nick Sandow and Kevin Corrigan. Other well-known faces we see in the film doing bit parts include Juno Temple, Merritt Wever, Mark Feuerstein, and John Leguizamo.

Reed Morano directed, her first turn as a director after a long career as a cinematographer. She did the cinematography for Meadowland in addition to directing. She more than proved herself as a director with this film and has worked on several new directing projects since this 2015 release.

This was not a fun movie, but it was an excellent movie. I recommend it.

You can watch the trailer in this earlier post.

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