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Wild Life (Vie Sauvage)
by Marinell Haegelin

Director: Cedric Kahn - France

Disenchanted with their semi-nomadic life, Nora (Céline  Sallette) takes off with the boys. Upon discovery, Paco (Mathieu Kassovitz)  gives chase; finding Nora, they denigrate one another in public. When they  divorce, Nora gets custody. Paco, however, has other plans. His belief is, “The  boys belong to the world.” Paco extends a visitation, whereby he and the boys  disappear. While Nora beseeches the public for help through media outlets, the  three burrow deeper in the Ariège Pyrenees region.  Paco teaches his six and seven-year old sons survival skills, and home-schools.  They change their names, and locations, to stay one step ahead of the  authorities. Until, Tsali (Romain Depret) and Okyesa (Jules Ritmanic) reach  their teens, recognize their marginalized lifestyle for what it is, and  hormones kick in. Trying to accommodate their requests, Paco learns letting go  is not easy either. But, when Tsali and Okyesa make the ultimate choice, as  adults they think with both head and heart.

In reality, Xavier Fortin abducted two sons in 1998 after  losing a custody battle. Director Cedric Kahn’s film covers their entire story, which lasted until 2009. Whereas, La Belle Vie (Jean Denizot, 2013), an  earlier film, focused on their last months in hiding. Kahn avoids  sentimentality: Paco is strict; Nora is portrayed as uncompromising. The cast  turns in balanced, strong performances. The youngsters, David Gastou (Tsali), Sofiane  Neveu (Okyesa), and Tara-Jay Bangalter (as Nora’s son Thomas who remained with  her) are cute-as-a-button. Mathias Duplessy’s music keeps pace with Yves Cape’s naturalistic camera style, and Simon  Jacquet’s editing. Wild Life’s message resonates: when any  type of a relationship fails, recriminations and spitefulness result in  heartache for everyone involved. To quote their older son following Fortin’s  release, "There is no winner and no loser in all of this."