Meadowland (2015)

Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss,
Meadowland is a movie starring Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, and Giovanni Ribisi. A year after their son goes missing, a couple handle the loss in varying ways, growing apart from one another and their reality.
  • 5.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Chris Rossi, Writer:
  • Reed Morano, Director:
  • Aaron L. Gilbert, Margot Hand, Matt Tauber, Producer:


8 / 10

An Honest Study of Love and Loss

This film was heart wrenching but beautiful.

It's a look at the story of how a couple cope with the loss of their son, and the pernicious effects of grief over time. The title itself, Meadowland, seems to be the mental land where the suffering protagonists go to escape, the dream land that exists to maintain the last shreds of hope in the face of overwhelming pain.

It makes an excellent job of conveying the gradual deterioration of the ability to cope with not knowing, not being able to say goodbye and the juxtaposition of the need for closure with the incredible fear of accepting the inevitable.

It's brilliantly acted and well scripted. The pace is slow but filled with mounting intensity. The film holds its breath, never spilling into melodrama, but holding in an enormous sense of tension and conflict, thus creating a direct line of empathy for the situation of the main characters.

But it's not all doom and gloom, well it is all doom and gloom, but it examines that darkness at the place from which it emanates; love.

Poetic and sincere.

7 / 10

A brave, uncompromising film with stunning performances

I suppose the reason most movies are so instantly forgettable is because, like the popcorn we shovel into our mouths distractedly while watching them, most movies are just bland, uninspiring, and only temporarily filling. They take few risks, break no new ground, and therefore leave us as we were when we entered the theater: hungry for something more substantial and memorable. Well, much admired cinematographer Reed Morano's first turn in the Director's chair, the haunting, visceral and formula shattering "Meadowland," which I caught at the Tribeca Film Festival last weekend, is simply unforgettable and searing. It burns its way into your memory, taking you on an ever-escalating trip through the unraveling of the world of parents unable to get any closure over a missing child who vanishes without a trace or clue, leaving the parents frozen in the time of the disappearance, immobilized yet stumbling through the mundane as they spend their days in a daze of incomplete, inchoate grief.

How do you mourn someone who is not dead but simply unaccounted for? In the hands of a less sensitive and brave director and cast, such a story would, at various times, turn melodramatic or maudlin, but Morano and her superb cast, led by Olivia Wilde, stay with the pace at which life honestly moves when grief is the gnawing feeling you wake up with every day. You live, but your life is lifeless, and every day their son stays missing is a little less a day for hope. Wilde gets progressively gaunt and hollowed with the passage of time, and she delivers a disciplined performance of aching realism, never giving in to the temptation to play Sarah broadly or with hand-wringing sympathy. Sarah's husband Phil, played by Luke Wilson in the equally defining role of his film career, is similarly staggered by his son's disappearance but falls down the rabbit hole of loss by a somewhat different route. While Sarah goes from lithium to lethargy, Phil goes for support from a group that includes John Leguizamo, superbly cast against his usual type, but Phil misunderstands the nature of support and loses a friend as he tries to take a shortcut in the twelve steps to rehabilitation. Wilson's eyes rarely show signs of the life he had before his son went missing; even when he is dealing with a domestic dispute with potentially explosive consequences, he seems bored by the banality of daily life even as he urges Sarah to accept the reality of their loss.

Morano clearly loves the actors with whom she works and gets career-defining performances from most of them, especially her two leads. Her dual role as cinematographer never seems to burden her. In fact, it may help to have the person actually behind the camera stand behind her actors. Her visuals are remarkably, even almost shockingly, bright and clear, from Sarah's yellow hoodie she wears when prowling the crowded city streets looking for her son to the clouds that hover over an otherwise dreary landscape of loss. Morano is a force to be reckoned with, and Meadowland is a film that celebrates her skills for story telling and her knack for getting the most out of her stars. Wilde and Wilson have never been better, but one senses Meadowland is just the beginning of even richer and deeper roles for both of them for a very long time. Meadowland is not without problems. The script tends to wander in the third act as if, like Sarah and Phil as they stumble through the fog of grief, not everyone is sure where things are ultimately headed. And let's be clear: this is not a subject matter that begs to be seen in a multiplex on a feel-good night out. But if film is indeed a window into our true selves, then Meadowland succeeds on every level because Morano, Wilde and Wilson are brave enough to tell a story without artifice and resolution. Much as we know, when we are truly honest with ourselves, that we have to live our lives without a story arc with a clear beginning, middle, and end, Meadowland honors the courage it takes just to keep living, especially when those who were so important that they were the center of those lives, cannot.

8 / 10

Embodies an astonishing performance from Olivia Wilde

One of our few female Cinematographers Reed Morano steps behind the camera in a different way to make her directorial debut on "Meadowland," written by Chris Rossi in his screen writing debut. Starring Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson, the film tells the story of Sarah and Phil, a couple who suffer an unimaginable loss and deal with the grief, loss, and hope in two completely different ways. Phil's own moral compass is challenged while Sarah begins to deteriorate, falling deeper into herself and losing all hopes of coming back. "Meadowland" is a methodical and at times very compelling film that presents an intimate portrait of grief and hopelessness.

Reed Morano hawks back to similar feels of films like "Shame," capturing a long shot within a New York street or "Half Nelson," deconstructing the mind of a struggling educator with a student in need of their own guidance. Morano frames the film spectacularly, as you could expect no less from the woman who shot "Kill Your Darlings" and "Frozen River." She appeals to our sensibilities as humans, and puts forth authentic reactions and behaviors of two human beings that can't imagine a world that their presently abound. That's also thanks to the palpable tension and drama set by scribe Rossi. These are two of the strongest debuts by a writer and director team seen in quite some time.

Challenging Jessica Biel ("Bleeding Heart") as our Hollywood hot girl taking on an indie film and knocking it out of the park at Tribeca, Olivia Wilde is electrifying. Standing out in her own way in films like "Her" and "Rush," Wilde finds her niche, accurately portraying a mother on the verge of breaking down but desperately searching for something to keep her afloat. Wilde delivers her finest acting performance of her career yet and is simply astonishing. There's so much that Wilde reveals in subtle moments of silence, whether its watching "Wheel of Fortune," or observing a boy struggling to make friends, she keeps things bubbled to the brim without spilling over. A tremendous and extraordinary actress has emerged.

In one of his most serious and heartbreaking roles, Luke Wilson surprises as the effective Paul. He internalizes much of the grief that lives within his veins and in certain moments, unleashes them but not in the stereotypical bombastic manner in which you'd expect. It's a real and intelligent portrayal, devoid of happy endings and clichéd heroism.

John Leguizamo is taking on an indie market again and its fantastic to see. Building even more excitement for a career post-Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss is superb in a brief role that should have been expanded beyond what was given. Returning to his roots, Giovanni Ribisi excelled in smaller films until Seth MacFarlane got his claws on him for TV and "Ted" (which admittedly he's hilarious in). As Tim, Paul's drug-recovering brother, Ribisi begins to revive the talents that made him so amazing in his early years of his career. In smaller roles, Mark Feuerstein, Merritt Wever, and Juno Temple all get their moment.

"Meadowland" is a fascinating piece, sometimes subtle in the way it presents its material, other times bombastic all leading to a finale that speaks multiple volumes about our own innocence. It's a film that will hopefully find a home with someone caring enough to nurture it into the right audiences.

7 / 10

reserved devastation

It's a year since Sarah (Olivia Wilde) and Philip (Luke Wilson) lost their son Jessie who disappeared after going to a gas station bathroom. She's a teacher in NYC and he's a policeman. She becomes obsessed with the outcast special-needs student Adam and his foster parents (Elisabeth Moss, Kevin Corrigan). Philip's screw-up brother Tim (Giovanni Ribisi) is staying with them. Philip is going to a support group. Sarah insists that Jessie is alive and is spiraling downwards.

Olivia Wilde delivers a quietly devastating performance. Her obsession with Adam is compelling. Philip deserves to have someone to concentrate his lost on just like Sarah. He seems to have a scattering of characters to interact with. He's a cop which should be easy for him to fixate on one victim. His side of the story isn't as compelling. This is Wilde's movie and she delivers.

7 / 10

Sad and excellent

This film is a good reminder for me to not follow film ratings alone as an indicator of quality when deciding whether or not to watch something.

I'd put this in my Netflix queue and when it came and I sat down to watch I was dismayed by early occurrences. Surely I hadn't decided to order this . . . this genre . . .

I visited the critiques here, was discouraged by the 5.2 rating but trusted the intelligence I encountered here in the reviews and went back and saw that, yes, this IS a good film.

The editing . . . the single shot of Phil where we see for the first time, on the left side of the screen his attire and suddenly know his profession, and at the same time on the right side of the screen, reflected in the car's windshield, what is on the dashboard. In a second, an instant, we know so much more about Phil.

The music is just right and enhances each mood.

It's a well crafted film.

It is very sad.

And it is very good.