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."